Anger after Ofqual 'cut and pasted online gossip' into English GCSE report

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Headteachers are furious after Ofqual quoted from an online teachers' forum in its GCSE English grading report ― despite having evidence from an £150,000 investigation which included 100 face-to-face interviews with schools. Schools are now being

Five headteachers, supported by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), have written an open letter to Glenys Stacey, Ofqual’s chief executive, questioning whether the real conclusions were suppressed because they did not tie in with the regulator’s version of events.

The £150,000 investigation, carried out by business consultant, Capgemini, involved visits to about 100 schools as part of a fact-finding mission about how and why this summer’s English results were so out of line with expectations.

The heads claim that few of these findings are reflected in Ofqual’s final report, GCSE English 2012, which only includes a 15-page “executive summary” of the Capgemini work. At the same time, the report relies heavily on comments from a teachers’ online forum, which is extensively referenced in the document.

The latest challenge to the beleaguered regulator is being spearheaded by Kenny Frederick, principal of George Green’s School in east London, who published her school’s moderator’s report on their website – it praises the school’s administration and marking of English GCSE.

Other headteachers followed suit, including Geoff Barton, the head of King Edward VI School in Bury St Edmonds, who published his school’s moderator’s report on his blog. 

It read: “Assessment was accurate and it was possible to confirm the centre’s marks. Annotation was particularly helpful: comments were based on mark scheme descriptors and highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate’s responses in a considered way. This was useful to the moderator and made it easy to see that the mark scheme had been applied in a fair and accurate manner.”

SecEd has published moderator reports from two of the schools, George Green's and Hanham High School below.

The other signatories to the letter are Peggy Farrington, head of Hanham High School in South Gloucestershire; Debbie Godfrey-Phaure, executive head of Avonbourne Academy Trust in Bournemouth; Robert Campbell, principal of Impington Village College in Cambridge; and Russell Hobby, NAHTs general secretary.

The letter said: “It strikes us as odd that very little of what Capgemini found actually appears in the final Ofqual report. We note also that the Capgemini report has not been published at all and your report relies heavily on comments from the TES teachers’ forum. We don’t believe this is enough of a basis to make the conclusions you have made.”

The letter asks Ofqual to publish the full Capgemini report “as well as transcripts of all the interviews that took place (with schools) at huge cost to the public purse”.

It continues: “We ask this so we can be privy to what pupils, teachers, headteachers and others affected by this fiasco have said during those interviews. As so little evidence from this expensive consultancy is actually used in the final report we can only assume that it did not say what you expected (or wanted) it to say.”

Ofqual this week told SecEd that the 15-page “executive summary” was the full Capgemini report and that the actual transcripts of the interviews had not been published as they are confidential.

However, Ms Frederick said that unless Ofqual produces evidence to the contrary “we can only conclude that it has based its findings on gossip cut and pasted from an internet chatroom”. She added: “That is not credible evidence and does a huge disservice to young people.”

Mr Barton told SecEd: “We should be allowed to see the evidence on which Ofqual has made its claims that over-generous teachers were the cause of the GCSE fiasco. If this issue is ever to go away we need some transparency and leadership – two features of the whole woeful affair that have been resoundingly absent.”

The open letter was published ahead of the Judicial Review hearing, which has now been agreed and is set to take place on December 18 to 20. Also this week, the NAHT announced it was joining forces with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), with both unions calling on their members to provide evidence to show that schools did not inflate their marking. Mr Hobby said that while the various sides were continuing to battle it out, young people were awaiting justice from a “mess that was not of their making”.

He said: “Last week, Ofqual suggested that it was correcting a fault caused by teachers, yet there appears to be little, if any, evidence that this was the case. If the exam boards themselves are confirming in their moderators’ reports that teachers’ marks were accurate, perhaps we can close down this particular diversion and get back on track. Ofqual must now accept its responsibility and start working with the profession to ensure immediate restitution for pupils caught up in the saga and to find ways to ensure that a similar mess does not happen again.”

ASCL president Mike Griffiths, head of Northampton School for Boys – one of the schools pursuing legal action – has also published its moderation report, which states: “The school is to be congratulated on its approach to the new specification and the accuracy of the marks awarded to students.”

Mr Griffiths told SecEd: “Ours is a high achieving school with skilled and experienced English teachers who pride themselves on fair and accurate assessment of students’ work. The moderator’s report backs this up, yet the grades were changed in the summer. We’re convinced that this is the same scenario in hundreds of schools around the country.”

An Ofqual spokeswoman told SecEd: “It is the full Capgemini report that is included in the main report. The interviews were carried out in confidence and the information gathered was used to inform our findings. There are no plans to publish any further information from the Capgemini work at this point.”

On the issue of the moderator's reports, Ofqual referred SecEd to page 10 of its report: "As the qualification has 60 per cent controlled assessment, the standard marking tolerance of six per cent is broad enough to take a large proportion of students over a grade boundary without exceeding the tolerance. Exam board moderators check a sample of controlled assessments, ahead of awarding.

"Moderation by exam boards did not prove strong enough to identify and counter problems effectively. It was not designed to do so. Most schools did not have their marks adjusted on moderation. Moreover, moderation operates at unit level, but the patterns of marking found here are only apparent when the marking is analysed at qualification level, and that can only be done after the event."

CAPTION: English row: The AQA moderators’ reports from George Green’s School (top) and Hanham High School, among other schools, have been published in a bid to show that teachers’ marking had been deemed as accurate. Other schools are being encouraged to follow suit



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