Highs and Lows

18 July 2020

This year’s GCSE results will be like no other. Teacher assessed grades will be ‘moderated’ by an algorithm designed by Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation is a non-ministerial government department that regulates qualifications and exams). This algorithm is understood to ‘adjust’ individual expectations to account for each school’s results over the past three years. The aim is to stop optimistic predictions but the issue is that high-flyers could lose out by this method.
This year’s unavoidable cancellation of exams means that results day will carry a different weight of expectation. Surprisingly, events this year have made the reality of normal exams seem a much fairer proposition and whilst students expecting grades 4 and 5 are likely to be hit the hardest, the use of an algorithm and school’s previous results prompts the question, then why did teachers get asked to submit their predictions in the first place?
This situation has made me realise that the jeopardy and uncertainty for learners, is higher than usual and whilst some students received the news of the exam cancellation with relief, there are many who genuinely wanted to prove what they know. Given that a computer will decide the grades this year, inevitably some students will win and some will lose. But is that fair?

Ofqual have said ‘We have extensively tested the model to ensure it gives students the fairest, most accurate results’. 

I've learned that fairness is not that everyone gets the same, but rather everyone gets what they need. By that definition, I hope every student at USH gets the grades they need to get the place and the course they want at college. But that’s just half the story; the missing part is the forever-lost chance to get a grade which surprises, which dazzles. This year the exams have been treated with the educational equivalent of an antidepressant- no lows but no highs either. What is schools had been allowed a number of ‘wild-card’ grade entries- something which would have added an important human (and normal) outcome to proceedings. Statistically of course, the computer says no.

I hope when students get the chance to experience milestone exam for real, they remember that whatever their outcome, lows and highs are natural, are normal, are life. And that's the biggest lesson of all.

I wish every student the best of luck in this most unusual year. You did indeed make a sacrifice and you derseve to be rewarded.

See you on the 20th August.

Fairness is not that everyone gets the same
You did indeed make a sacrifice