Did you make the right decision?


Did you back the right horse when it came to early GCSE entry? Our headteacher diarist explains how his school fared.

So many headteachers will have returned after half-term wondering whether they “backed the right horse”.

Did those of us who felt that early GCSE exam entry was the correct decision for our students, despite the government’s late intervention to exclude the results from counting in performance league tables, get it right?

Did our students get the results they deserve? Or perhaps those who did not enter early felt relief and are now waiting until the May/June period when some students will have to sit 30 exams!

At my school, the maths results were good and there was palpable relief – in fact there was almost an audible “phew”!

However, I have said it before and I’ll say it again – it shouldn’t be like this. I came in to teaching to pass on what I loved: the great books I was reading, the love of words – these  things were what I cared about.

It distresses me that children are equated to numbers, levels and grades and that governments continue to hide behind the mythical mantra of “standards”, which when unpicked simply equates to the ability of passing exams at the end of 11 years of a flawed education system.

Furthermore, how absurd in a country that has so many cultural aspects that are the envy of the world that the Ofsted judgement of a school is primarily a judgement of the success of the English and maths departments.

In unpicking my early entry results, it was clear that the C-grade boundary was the same as last year. It would have to be, wouldn’t it? Don’t want those year 12 re-sits “clogging” up the system.

But the B, A and A* grade boundary had dramatically increased. Therefore, B grade students would have recorded A grades last year.

Michael Gove and his education zealots will blame teachers, schools, the youth of today and the exam boards – or perhaps they will produce a graph and mutter about educational standards – but, once again, we have seen a shift in the educational rules without any clear explanation and with students and schools used as political footballs. 

David Cameron and Mr Gove want us to be a nation recognised for our science and maths skills, therefore the results are left alone, while the poor old English departments, the area where loony left-wing Ben Elton wannabies preside, continue to be under the cosh!

My concern is that the English regrading fiasco, a disgrace that paralysed so many schools as they struggled to plan and cope with student and staff despair, has probably reoccurred. 

We are rightly in an accountability system, yet we are judged, graded and metaphorically beaten with flawed figures based on the premise of whether we have gambled on the right time to enter students and picked the correct tier. 

The English GCSE scandal and farce, which two high court judges unsurprisingly agreed was “a source of unfairness” and “a matter of widespread concern”, appears to have been swept under the carpet. Educational commentators and others are now being allowed to use those flawed grades to manipulate the “standards” debate.

In the current climate of industrial action, this would certainly be a principle over which the profession could strike – teaching should not be about playing the exam results game, students should not get D grades for 15/100 higher tier marks, and we should all stop playing this league table dance that is, as Frasier in Dad’s Army, would have said “doomed, doomed”.

  • Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.


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