Any student fortunate enough to have come away from the great GCSE grading fiasco of 2012 with higher than an A grade will, according to the criteria set out, have a solid grasp on the concept of irony.
They, like me and many of my fellow professionals, will have sat open-mouthed and watched politicians and the head of Ofqual use their moment in the spotlight to, rather than address the issue at hand, complain that the levels of English which students leave school with is simply not up to "the standards expected by most employers". Ironic then, that people in high powered jobs such as these find it almost impossible to construct a sentence which suggests any coherent grasp of the language.
Firstly, we had the Chief Regulator of Ofqual chuckling her way through an interview on Sky News, appearing to gain some sort of perverse pleasure from the distant sounds of college doors slamming in the faces of distraught 16-year-olds. She declared that students in the January cohort had simply got a "lucky break". This was the most memorable sound bite from a pitiful performance, addled with the complacency you would expect from a woman who had just conducted an inquest into the shady actions of her very own department.
Michael Gove's first comment on the matter in ten days after the story broke was "I share the er, erm, er, sadly, the sadness of the students." Despite having had the confidence knocked in my own ability to accurately assess a speaking and listening piece, I'm fairly certain that an opening like that would have left him well short of a C grade, even if he had been assessed in January.
Both of these influential people have agreed that a travesty has taken place. Both have accepted that things could have been done to avoid the travesty taking place and that thousands of students have been short changed. So why won't they put it right?
When pressed by the Commons Education Select Committee on why he was refusing to follow the Welsh Education Minister's lead and order a re-grading of the affected papers, he took the opportunity to launch a political attack. Claiming that Leighton James was trying to cover up the failings of the Welsh education system, he declared that it would be the Welsh students who would suffer. His rationale for this stance was that those students in Wales who had been given the C grades, which they had rightly earned, may come under scrutiny in the future from employers who, Gove believes, will not see this exam pass "as the equivalent to other exam passes."
If he believes this to be a worse fate than that which their English counterparts are currently suffering, he is deluded.
I have received a number of visits from our now ex-students affected by this issue since returning to school two weeks ago. Those who have been allowed into college have been ordered to re-sit their English Language GCSE course, usually during evening classes. In addition, many have not been allowed to take the four A-levels they had planned to take and will be forced to drop a further one next year, leaving them with two A-levels and minimal chance of achieving enough credit to get into university. The repercussions from this shambles are monumental. We must not let the media divert this story towards a debate about grade inflation. We must demand decisive action to get justice for these youngsters, sooner rather than later.
It isn't just our ex-students who are suffering. I had my first lesson of the new year with my year 11 boys last Wednesday. There are 26 of them in there, all with varying difficulties, which they have been working unbelievably hard to overcome. They put their trust in me last September when I told them that if they gave me everything, I would have them fully prepared for their final exams in a position to exceed all previous expectations of them.
It was with great difficulty and discomfort that I had to inform them that, due to issues with grade boundaries, the controlled assessment pieces, which they put their hearts and souls into, are now worth less than they were when they went on their summer holidays. I am sure I'm not alone, also, in finding it difficult to continue to exude enthusiasm for an English course which the Education Secretary has deemed "not fit for purpose".
My traditional assembly to mark the start of Key Stage 4 was also dampened by the turbulent events of this summer. It is a time when we attempt to inspire the students with stories of those who have worked hard to earn incredible awards, promoting the desire to succeed as the key to achieving the very best grades. Unfortunately, those amongst the audience with elder friends or relatives were fully aware that last year, the work ethic of the students was a less determining factor than the time of year the examinations were taken.
We will continue to do our best for these children, who still have dreams of progressing through college and onto University. But let's not allow ourselves to forget the class of 2012, who didn't get the "lucky break".
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