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DfE and issues with entries - help needed

Discussion in 'English' started by andycart, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. Good Evening,

    The DfE checking exercise was released at 09:30 this morning and has caused serious issues for us. I just wonder if anyone can help regarding our problem.

    For several years, we have delivered the AQA combined English GCSE to our whole cohort (spec' 4700) and have put the higher-ability students through the Literature exam' as an optional GCSE (typically 33% of our cohort); we ran this entry profile last year (2013/14 academic year) and made good progress on the outcomes for previous years. This Summer, we ran the same entry profile (aware that the current spec; is still valid for this last year of 2015/16) and achieved outstanding results - the highest in the school's history and just desserts for our hard work and the hard work of our students.

    However, today, the DfE sample checker has discounted the Lit' optional exam' (taken in the last week of this year's half-term) against the GCSE English exam' sat a few days later; our combined 5A*to C (EM) has now dropped from 49% to 20% and our 3levels of progress in English from 81% to 48%. The DfE have suggested that they introduced this 'new rule' last year but reversed their decision to implement it due to the number of schools that would be affected by such a decision. Our argument, regardless of not knowing about this extra change to English entries, is that the English GCSE and the separate Lit' GCSE do not, unlike the Lang/Lit combination, discount against each other and that we weren't made aware of this last year.

    As you can imagine, morale is now seriously affected and, with an Ofsted inspection due in the next few weeks, we are at serious risk of being put into notice rather than enjoying the predicted 'Good' that we have all worked so hard for. Can I just ask if anyone else, who follows the same specification, has been made aware of this change to the pathways? And, if anyone else is affected in the same manner.

    Any help or advice, certainly regarding any prior experience of challenging the DfE, would be greatly appreciated.


  2. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    I can't offer you any solution, except to say you will never persuade the DfE to change the rule for one school.

    I can offer some context, though.

    As long as these specs have been in existence, there have been two pathways for students: GCSE English Langiage and GCSE English Literature together or GCSE English on its own. Therefore, doing GCSE English and GCSE English Literature together was always a forbidden combination. Some exam boards enforced this (WJEC, for example, would reject entries for these two GCSEs in the same series). The DfE, however, turned a blind eye when compiling league tables, under the 'best result counts' ethos.

    Since 2014, the first entry rule has applied to league tables. With English, this is tricky because of the two pathways. With no checks in place, a school could enter its students for both GCSE English Language and GCSE English and the best result would count, as both entries would technically be first attempts. Clearly, this would be unfair.

    Therefore, the DfE introduced a special rule for English (and a couple of other multi-pathway subjects, like Science) saying that the first entry would identify a student's pathway and keep him/her on that pathway. So, a student taking either GCSE English Language or GCSE English Literature first would be on the Lang/Lit pathway (and expected to complete both GCSEs, with the first entries in each counting), while one taking GCSE English first would be on the single English pathway (and only that GCSE would count).

    Your students took GCSE English Literature first (as its exams are a couple of weeks before the GCSE English ones) and were therefore placed on the Lang/Lit pathway. As far as the league tables are concerned, the students' GCSE in English doesn't exist, as they were looking for GCSE English Language.

    Sorry if all this is obvious to you. I just wanted to establish the facts and history.

    I am a bit puzzled that you have been told that this was meant to be brought in last year, but wasn't. As far as I was aware, the rule was enforced. It was publicised, but there was a TES article about schools being caught out.

    In fact, it happened to a school near me. Their circumstances were similar to yours (only entering the top end for GCSE English Literature). This school's headline figure was dreadful because of this. As far as I know, this was the case when the the final league tables were published in January. Maybe the DfE did backtrack and it wasn't. I'd have to check.

    The good(ish) news that this school was inspected last year and Ofsted seemed sympathetic. The report mentioned the results were low, but attributed this to an entry policy error. The bad news is that the school was given requires improvement for other reasons.

    So, on the one hand, your school has been lucky to 'get away' with this technically disallowed entry policy for years (especially last year). On the other hand, I completely understand the unfairness you feel. At least this doesn't affect the students. You may be able to convince Ofsted. Have your alternative figures ready and make sure Ofsted gets them. Good luck.

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