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Ofqual rescues ‘wrongly entered’ GCSE pupils from failure but who is to blame for the mix-up?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Aug 21, 2018.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    ‘Ofqual has taken extraordinary action to stop pupils, who it believes were inappropriately entered for a higher tier GCSE science paper, from walking away with U grades.

    The regulator has taken the highly unusual step of intervening over the fail grades for GCSE combined science after it found that more than expected were getting an unclassified result.

    Ofqual has allowed examiners to look at the work pupils did on the higher tier paper and judged whether it would have been enough to secure them two grade 3s, had they sat the foundation tier paper for the double GCSE.

    But the watchdog has refused to disclose how many students have been affected.’

    What are your views? Was Ofqual right to intervene? Does the exam system really have to be this complicated with tiered papers and safety net grades? Do you think this type of mistake could happen again where students unwittingly take an inappropriate paper for their level of knowledge and skills? Are you surprised that the mistake and the remedy were introduced days before the results are due? Is it fair that some students will still miss out on a grade because they were unable to demonstrate a good enough standard to receive the lowest pass grade on the higher paper? Is it time to scrap the tiered papers?

  2. install

    install Star commenter

    It used to be called 'playing the system' when schools entered candidates early? It may show a serious weakness in the supposed new challenging exams. Or maybe Science exams have just been too easy for too long since the demise of the old O level system.
    damia69 likes this.
  3. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I think it was a compassionate thing to do to spare a few optimistically entered youngsters from total shame. It's not the first time it's happened, way back when the higher tier paper was only supposed to assess grades D-A* some E grades were awarded - in science again.
    Science papers have not been "easy" for a long time but the grade boundaries have been embarrassingly low - so low in fact that I found that any grade below an A* in chemistry meant that a lot of catch up was needed for kids to move on to A level.
    I don't think ending tiered papers is the solution, the pressure for challenging exams for the brightest (which I'm not against) means that they become an impossible task for the less academic kids.
    The problems will diminish as schools and teachers discover what is actually needed to get the grades.
    A child weak enough to only score a 2 in science, probably won't lose out by getting a U instead.
    If schools have entered significant numbers of children where this happens, then the exam board needs to talk to them about tiers of entry.
  4. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

  5. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

  6. install

    install Star commenter

    They will most likely need to scrap tiers altogether to move forward on this in future. But confusion over tier entries/final grade values and then does not bode well for a new exam system.

    This raises a potential issue with the system though and notions of % at each grade. What does happen in a year when all students genuinely underperform? Is it fair that their low grade goes higher - simply because alot of other students got low grades too?
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018
    Catgirl1964 and agathamorse like this.
  7. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    NO! With the current content of GCSE science courses, you cannot assess the bright children hoping to take science further with the same paper as the middle achievers and the kids with learning difficulties. If you want to show what the children can do, you need questions targetted at those children. A single tier paper would either be mostly inaccessible to the lowest achievers, or we would have a paper where the high achievers get bored with lots of easy questions followed by a very steep increase in difficulty to exclude the middle achievers but cope with the top end. Schools need to get the entries right and accept a few U grades if they wilfully put children in for papers that are too hard.
    This happens in schools from time to time but I don't think happens nationally. What of course should happen - they made a big fuss about it when they introduced GCSE is that the exams are criterion referenced.
    yodaami2, Catgirl1964, blazer and 2 others like this.
  8. strawbs

    strawbs Established commenter

    Agree totally - same situation for Maths. We used to have 3 tiers - intermediate sat between H and F and was often the best option for those who could "do" the subject but were not naturally talented at it nor had a desire to study it at A-level.
  9. install

    install Star commenter

    Guess we feel differently about it . To me an exam with no tiers could easily have a range of questions within it to test ability - maybe slowly getting harder. It would also help to avoid Ofqal having to rearrange grades so much, making it more trustworthy. Indeed, a low ability student might just appreciate the chance to at least have a fair go at the higher grades.

    But yes I do see the points about tiered exams.
    rehaank and agathamorse like this.
  10. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    With the current Science papers, most students who take the Foundation paper struggle to access the standard demand (grade 4/5) questions. If there was only one tier they would not be able to do 70% of the exam
    blazer and agathamorse like this.
  11. install

    install Star commenter

    Unless the Exam changed to account for all abilities of course.
  12. rehaank

    rehaank Occasional commenter

    The old GCSE Maths. Let's enter x students in for Higher tier as only 35% is needed for a C or some nonsense like that.
    damia69 and agathamorse like this.
  13. ridleyrumpus

    ridleyrumpus Lead commenter

    Can I ask, what do you teach?
  14. rehaank

    rehaank Occasional commenter

    I'm sure candidates have "under performed" nationally. Take the A Level Biology papers were as little as 16% can get you an E and 60% gets you an A*.

    I'm for a "no tier" move and have a gradual progression of slow to hard. Another thing is that, while this act of compassion is great and all, we won't move and progress forward if we don't accept failure among students. Some fail. Some pass. Some do well. No i'm not heartless.

    Having "foundation tiers" designed to support and comfort clearly struggling students to whom science is exactly not their forte is again delusional. I get designing papers to meet their "demands" but these students aren't likely to go ahead to heck even study science at A Level. Why make papers providing a sense of false security with all grade 1 - 3 questions and try and differentiate between students at such a low level?

    install likes this.
  15. rehaank

    rehaank Occasional commenter

    GCSE to A Level Science but i also teach A Level maths (occasionally).
  16. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    In Maths it would have to be so long as to be unreasonable to expect students to take it. As others have said, the loss of the Intermediate tier was a big mistake to solve a minor issue. They should have just allowed students with near 100% on the Foundation tier to get a C and retained all three tiers.
    strawbs and swampyjo like this.
  17. install

    install Star commenter

    Yet - as has been pointed out elsewhere - tiers seem to encourage a grading of failure, not nevessarily success. There comes a point where a student has simply failed to pass the grade needed at the standard required.

    An all encompassing paper or papers that set a standard meets the requirement far more than several tiered ones. And is passing Maths still too easy maybe - compared to say the O Level standard?
  18. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    Only if you think getting grades less than a C or a 4 aren't worth getting. In which case you would want to return to O levels and not bother setting questions for students at those levels.
  19. install

    install Star commenter

    O Levels - I think.had grades of D and below also . But I could be wrong. Even so - as already stated it would be possible to have questions that got slightly harder.

    And yes, maybe the time has come for there to be a rethink.on what happens to students who get say grade 3 across all their subjects? The notion of Progress 8 does them no favours.It may help the school, but not necessarily the student.

    Surely, it would be better for struggling students not to be forced to do 8 gcses or more? When maybe - just maybe - they might get 5 grade '4' s if they can put their energy into really passing 5 gcses.
  20. nervousned

    nervousned Senior commenter

    Do you teach Maths? My experience was the less tiers, the worse the exam system.
    phlogiston likes this.

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