GCSE Results And 'Reforms' 2017

25/08/2017 12:14

Results day morning, Twitter is full of tweets from panicked and sleep deprived students, the existentialists are asking why their future should be defined by a piece of paper, whilst jokers mock their potential failure and adults give some 'sage' advice. Later in the day, anxieties seem mostly unfounded; overall grades across England, Northern Ireland and Wales are generally similar to last year, with the pass rate (4/C and above) slightly down by only 0.6 % to 66.3. Not a massive decline but do not let the statistics fool you.

On The Student Room website teens are claiming the grade boundaries are too low. I have to agree with them, particularly for the new Maths exam. On the surface the Maths results look great, the pass rate has significantly increased, rising 7.4% to 68.9. However, when you consider that the grade boundary for a pass on the higher tier paper was only 18% the scrutiny begins. Yes, it is the higher tier and exams were designed to be harder so allowances had to be made, as not to disadvantage this years cohort, but 18% for a pass? Let us take a moment to be grateful it wasn't their driving test!

How did we get to this point where a C is 18%, last year it was 35%. Such a low pass boundary seems to undermine the efforts and attainment of those with higher grades and makes those at the bottom look worse than they actually are. Those with the top grade needed to score at least 79% a full 61% more than those who just passed, this is a huge gap between the top and the middle. This confuses me, but then again, it confuses most people, especially the students taking the exams, with The Student Room finding that 75% do not understand the new grade descriptors.

Grade confusion amongst the general public is not they only issue, there have been reports of reforms adding to mental health issues of students, potential increases in statistical errors giving rise to incorrect grades, issues with comparability between the old and new system, rushed marking to meet deadlines, exam paper question errors, reported by both a Student Room survey and an exam board. With this plethora of issues it would seem that things are already going badly for these reforms.

This years cohorts are the first guinea pigs of the reforms. Reforms that are the legacy of an education minster accused of butchering our education system - Michael Gove. The sad irony is that these reforms were designed by Gove to "increase the rigour of qualifications" and "reflect years of careful planning" as claimed by Sally Collier, Ofquals chief regulator. She was appointed by MPs despite "her knowledge of the current reforms to GCSEs and A levels was somewhat lacking" - which indicates she couldn't even take the time to do her pre-interview homework. Surely Whitehall can do better than this? Although, as the pound plunges and the NHS slowly dies, perhaps these issues are an indication that 21st century reforms are needed elsewhere.

For now, I live in hope that one day, education reforms will create a fair, rigorous and more meaningful education system. Ours seems rather outdated, a 20th century institution treading water in the 21st. Times have changed. Surely current reforms should have evolved more significantly, in line with society and needs in todays' age? Simply altering the grade system to numbers and adding arbitrary content padding to make learning more complex, does not seem like a realistic 21st century reform. What changes do you think are necessary? Have your say...