Whether or not you agree with the 4/5 change that was announced last week (some people do! read the comments at the end of my blog post -> here ), the fact is that Nicky Morgan (and yes I know she’s gone!) together with Nick Clegg (him too!!) pledged as part of their commitment to teacher workload that the government would give “schools more notice of significant changes to the curriculum, exams and accountability, and not making changes to qualifications in the academic year or during a course, unless there are urgent reasons for doing so” … it’s the principle of these changes with just 7 weeks to go that I’m annoyed at. It would probably be almost palatable had this been the only thing to happen but there are rumours surrounding the possible scrapping of resits, which if true coupled with #Grade4/5gate at this late stage of the game in my mind just shows a complete lack of awareness of the pressure teachers are under. Maybe the resit rumours are related to the NON publication of the “Smith” report into post -16 Maths – does it contain what we’ve been saying since resits became compulsory that they are putting untold pressure on FE and further numbers requiring resits (i.e. if a 4 required a resit) was untenable? Who knows? Maybe the report will see the light of day eventually … hmmm … maybe I can request it under the FOI Act??
This is a significant change and it has been buried in the news of Brexit. The letter from Justine Greening is very carefully worded “I will continue to publish not just the “standard pass” (grade 4 and above) but also the “strong pass” (at grade 5 and above) in school performance tables” … this is the first time we have heard a 4 being referred to as a “standard pass” … being the pedant that I am … does the use of ” “standard pass” (grade 4 and above) “mean that grades 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are BOTH “standard” passes AND “good” passes? Surely a “standard pass” is just a grade 4 and shouldn’t include the words “and above”. What is very interesting is that in the latest incarnation of the grading infographic from Ofqual doesn’t include any references to either of these categories of “pass” … the below shows the evolution of the card:
I suppose the bit that sticks in my throat a little, is that there is no acknowledgement that we are working our asses off out here and it just feels a little like anything the government say they are doing to ease workload and accountability is all just paying lip service to it. Given the previous commitment to not making changes the least I would have expected is some kind of reason given for these changes but nope! we get no explanation and are just expected to accept them .. it all makes me want to bury my head in the sand! It’s just all so very frustrating on the frontline and whilst I know Ofqual (I never thought I’d say this) are trying their best to explain the changes it all feels a little too late – some of us have been screaming out for this level of information for the last two years and NOW we get it? Some people will think that we’re “just” teachers and should get on with the job of teaching kids “stuff” but the fact is that some of us want to know how the high stakes testing that is the culmination of 11 years of education works. I genuinely think that the Ofqual team are stuck between a rock and a hard place but the latest blog post made me genuinely laugh out loud (not because there is anything wrong with it!) There is an infographic, which I’ve shown below, that details the percentages at each grade based on 2016 results … the irony is that, not so long ago a certain someone from a certain exam board (to be exact it was in an email sent on the 31st August 2016) sent out very similar information based on some genius modelling (yes we knew there were caveats!) only for the document to be swiftly removed from public view and was followed up with an email from their head of standards saying, and I quote: “This document was created with the best intentions, with the aim of supporting you in anticipating likely student grades. However, as the technical experts who will be working closely with Ofqual on the implementation, we advise that you use this information with caution” … ummm … at that time this information was comforting (so massive kudos goes to Mr Mysterious!) and anything was better than the “nothing” we were getting and now its all too late. What I won’t accept is that a possible “good” pass rate of mid 50’s is a surprise to anyone! It was obvious from the outset when Nicky Morgan announced it back in 2015 .. this is not new “news” and if it is to the powers that be, we have an issue!
I am seriously trying not to be a negferret but relentless positivity is not the answer either. We are where we are and we’re getting on with the little matter of teaching – on my travels recently I’ve had lots of time to think about ways to address misconceptions (my latest “thang”!) at this point in the year, whilst getting students to think about why they happen (is it a mistake or a misconception?) … it’s not enough to just point misconceptions out as the opportunities arise they need to engage with them too! So I’ve put together the below (document -> here) that I’m going to trial this week as starters with years 10 and 11 – I’m going to ask them to mark the worksheet (hopefully they will tell me the best way to work out if the answers are correct is to work it out themselves), with a view to starting these type of discussions and also talk about where and how marks could be awarded. If it works one of my projects for the Summer is to take the papers from this first sitting and make a whole suite of these style of worksheets that can be used after the papers are used as internal assessments next year or just as revision …