Anger as grade changes give pupils ‘a raw deal’

GCSE results day in Bury St Edmunds.  St Benedicts.  Michael Nicholls (10 A*) and Ellie Walker (9 A*).

GCSE results day in Bury St Edmunds. St Benedicts. Michael Nicholls (10 A*) and Ellie Walker (9 A*).

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ANGRY headteachers have laid into the Government after changes to the marking of English GCSEs left many youngsters distraught.

Pupils that last year would have gained a C and with it a place in college opened their envelopes to discover they had been graded a D – schools meanwhile reported a drop of 10 to 20 per cent in the English GCSE results.

GCSE results.   County Upper School.  Ruth Newton (9 A*) and Aidan Campbell (11 A*).

GCSE results. County Upper School. Ruth Newton (9 A*) and Aidan Campbell (11 A*).

One of the major exam boards admitted AQA admitted that the ‘grade boundaries’ had been raised but said this was ‘to ensure standards are maintained’ and not as a result of any political pressure.

But Hugh O’Neill, headteacher at St Benedicts Catholic School said: “We have heard the Government make pronoucements about making exams tougher. They have surely gone further than they intended.

“These extraordinary shifts in results can only be explained by a massive change in exam marking policy. It seems to us that a year group of students has been given a very raw deal.

“Many will be rethinking their plans, having failed to get the grade they needed.”

GCSE results day in Bury St Edmunds.  King Edward VI Upper.

GCSE results day in Bury St Edmunds. King Edward VI Upper.

His school saw the number of pupils gaining 5 A* to C grades fall from 90 per cent to 76 per cent, while the number achieving those grades in five subjects including English and maths, collapsed from 81 per cent to an unprecedented 56 per cent.

Despite the gloom 15 pupils achieved 10 or more A*s and As.

Geoff Barton at King Edward VI said he was also trying to find out if the drop was a result of political instruction and demanded an investigation by the exam boards.

“If it is it is reprehensible,” said Mr Barton. “They have been studying hard all this time and to sudden fall at the final hurdle because of some change beyond their control and beyond their teacher’s control, I think is unfair.”

Friends Lucy Jennings, from Stowmarket, and Amy Sheldrake, from Needham Market, moments after opening their GCSE exam results at Stowmarket High School

Friends Lucy Jennings, from Stowmarket, and Amy Sheldrake, from Needham Market, moments after opening their GCSE exam results at Stowmarket High School

He said there had been a 10 per cent drop in its English results – 73 per cent of students got 5 A*-Cs, while the number getting those grades in five subjects including English and maths was 52 per cent.

But Vicky Neale, headteacher at County Upper defended the changes. The number of pupils gaining A* to C in English was 82 per cent, about the same as last year, while the number getting five A* to C including English and maths was 74 per cent, the best result the school has had.

She said that nationally the grades had only fallen by about 1.8 per cent.

“It is a new English course, we had told all our students that it would be tougher. I think that was made clear,” she said:

Students celebrate receiving their GCSE exam results at Stowupland High School

Students celebrate receiving their GCSE exam results at Stowupland High School

“In some ways the exam boards can’t win. They go up and everybody says the exams are getting easier and they go down and everybody says the exam board has got in wrong.

“If it is getting too easy and has got to be a change in standards then that change has to happen at some time and at least it is a level playing field.

“I think this is employer and university driven who are saying we can’t keep having this great inflation of grades..”

All her students gained at least five grades including the core subjects, while 15% gained at least 8 A*/A grades.

Thurston Communuity College saw 58 per cent achieve five A*-C including English and maths, while excluding those subjects the number gaining five A*-C was 73 per cent, the highest in 11 years.

Vice prinicpal Paul Potter said: “The results are lower than we had predicted and like other schools we will be looking into it. Overall though we are very proud of our students.”

Friends James Mitchell and Ben McCarthy celebrate the end of their GCSE journey at Thurston Community College

Friends James Mitchell and Ben McCarthy celebrate the end of their GCSE journey at Thurston Community College

Mildenhall College saw an increase in the number of students gaining 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C at 94%, up 6%.

Head Susan Byles said: “The success of our students is testimony to the tremendous hard work and effort they have put in. Many have attended extra revision sessions at lunchtime, after school and even during holidays to make sure that they achieved the best results possible.

“At this point in time we are unable to confirm the figure for the percentage of students achieving 5A*-C grades including Maths and English. “We are investigating our own results and will appeal to the exam board if we feel any of the students have been unfairly graded.”

Stowupland High School saw the number getting five A*-C including English and maths at 49 per cent, while those gaining five A*-C overall was 68 per cent.

Head Karen Grimes said: “Stowupland students have worked extremely hard and the support of parents has been very much appreciated. Our students should be happy with their achievements.”

Meanwhile 35 per cent of pupils at Stowmarket High achieved five A*-Cs including English and maths whilc the figure exluding these subjects was 60 per cent.”

Headteacher Keith Penn back calls for an investigation of the grading.

“A considerable number of students, here and across the country, will have received results with which they are disappointed.

“This should not be allowed to detract from their successes nor from the right of all students who have worked very hard to feel proud of their achievements,” he said.

Thetford Academy 37 per cent of pupils achieve five A*-C with English and maths and 54 per cent without.

The school’s performance in maths at A* to C grade improved by 17 per cent after the school employed four Canadian teachers who specialise in the subject.

Cathy Spillane, principal, said: “This is a good platform to move forward and reflects the hard work of children and staff.”

At Thetford Grammar School, 44 per cent achieved A*-A grades and 93 per cent of pupils gained A*-C grades.

Culford School was celebrating 40% of all grades at A* or A grade. All pupils got at least five GCSEs at A*-C grades with 25% of pupils achieving at least eight A* or A grades.

Hockwold and Methwold Community School told the Bury Free Press its results were ‘unavailable’.

Leanne Ashmore, Rhiannon Gray, Megan Rann, Jake Robertson, Connor Byrne, Connor Burke get their GCSE results at Thetford Academy

Leanne Ashmore, Rhiannon Gray, Megan Rann, Jake Robertson, Connor Byrne, Connor Burke get their GCSE results at Thetford Academy