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WJEC Ordered to Re-Grade GCSE English Language (But Only in Wales)

Discussion in 'English' started by CandysDog, Sep 10, 2012.

  1. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    This is very relevant to all English teachers – in England, Wales or Northern Ireland
    So, as widely reported, the Welsh Government's investigation has ordered WJEC to re-grade this summer's GCSE English Language results.
    The issue is basically that Wales's results are lower than 2011, despite the cohort being the same. Many of the issues were caused by the standards for comparablity in England (such as checking GCSE results against KS2 SATs scores and assuming lower ability candidates would take single English), which – due to WJEC's large marketshare in England – had to be applied to Wales so all the grade boundaries were the same.
    The report is fascinating because it shows – more so than anything I've read so far – the effect of political interference in setting grade boundaries. For example, WJEC wanted to lower the grade boundary for a C in one CA unit (which would have returned them all to the notional boundaries), but were not allowed to do so because it would take their results out of tolerance with what the KS2 SATs in England were predicting. We are a long way from criteria-referenced grades now, Toto.
    So all of Wales's WJEC GCSE English Language entries will be re-graded. The report recommends this should also happen in England. Of course, if it doesn't this means that candidates in England who have scored exactly the same marks as candidates in Wales could get a lower grade.
    This puts Ofqual in a difficult position. In the past, Ofqual has stood up for comparability between England and Wales, which is why Functional Skills as a hurdle to a C was scrapped (as it would only apply in England, leading to the whole identical marks, but different grades based on the countrya candidate lives in situation). Nevertheless, I've lost so much respect for Ofqual in the last fortnight (and I did used to respect them a lot) that I wouldn't be suprised if they just stood firm.
    The report does not find any fault with AQA's grades, though this is more through lack of evidence than anything else. This means that AQA's candidates in Wales (5% of the Welsh total) will not be re-graded. (Interestingly (to me, at least), OCR, Edexcel and CCEA have no entries at all from Wales.)
    So, we can conclude two things:
    • There was a lot of (indirect) political interference in this summer's grades – perhaps even more than we all realised
    • Having three regulators (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) for the GCSE is unsustainable
    The full report: http://wales.gov.uk/topics/educationandskills/qualificationsinwales/qualificationregulation/regpublication/reports/gcseen2012/?lang=en
  2. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    It is also reported here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-19545045

    What I find deeply ironic is Conservative spokestoad's Angela's Burns comment at the end, '"I fear that this intervention - at odds with the situation in England - has been made purely for political reasons.". Ummmm. Political intervention was the problem in the first place, Angela. Even our revered Education Secretary Gove admitted candidates were treated unfairly but didn't feel any inclination to intervene.

    Back to the Wales intervention - surely this makes an increasingly untenable situation even more ridiculous. Students in Wales achieving a C whilst students in England achieving a D with exactly the same marks!

    Our headline results were great, but we suffered at the top end; AQA have butchered our marking and the moderator's report doesn't really hold-up; gerrymandering we suspect. Considering we conducted standardisation with AQA reps on several occasions and, barring the odd mark here or there, we were all in agreement; all of a sudden our marks are 8 or so out, despite us being a very experienced department who have never had our marks changed or questioned before. Further, we were not informed about this before the results, which we thought was standard procedure (or was in the past, anyway).
  3. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    WJEC's reponse:
    It alludes to many of the issues in my original post, with a thinly veiled, but quite justified, criticism that they have now been placed in an impossible position due to conflicting requests from the Welsh Government and Ofqual.
  4. I am just a vistor from the Maths forum but my sympathies have been going out to teachers of English. Having colleagues who have been (justifiably) upset because of a huge drop in grades in English I have been following what has happened with interest. I cannot wait for the next installment in this total farce. I pity students. I pity teachers. I even pity WJEC who now seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place. Can we just issue boxing gloves to Govesy amd Andrews and shout, "Fight!, Fight! Fight!"
  5. Perhaps when the regrading happens for Wales only, all those students in England suffering a further discrimination in this ongoing Govian farce should be encouraged to protest outside Parliament wearing daffodills.
  6. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    A potential consequence of regrading Welsh papers only would be that English schools would not be able to use WJEC in the future and vice versa.
    I agree that having multiple regulators over the same thing is just going to add to the difficulties and undermines further the current system. If Gove wanted more evidence that a single exam board with all exams taken in Yr 11 was they best way forward, he has just got it
  7. sunflower48

    sunflower48 New commenter

    CandysDog, there was talk that the Y11 who missed on a C grade would be allowed to sit their exams again in November. Is this still the case? And what about those Y10 (now Y11) who sat Units 1 and 2 Language for the first time in May and who did not achieve their grades, are they also allowed to resit in November and then again the following May 2013. Or is it just students who cashed-in in May. Hope you can help and I appreciate all your explaining of this fiasco.
  8. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    Yes, there will definitely be a bonus re-sit opportunity this November. Ofqual offered it as a compromise for aggrieved students. And that's about the extent of what we know at the moment, but the exam boards are set to announce full details this week.
  9. I know that AQA are not allowing last years year ten a resit opportunity...just this years cohort
  10. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    How do they justify that? The web site clearly states that English Language can be taken in a year, allowing the second year for Lit.
  11. vacherin

    vacherin New commenter

    I think the report actually makes things worse. There will now be an even gretaer sense of injustice felt by students in England who did the WJEC exam(and there is a large number of students involved). I do agree that it suggests that English schools might not wish to opt for WJEC in the future, but that is, in part, what the government wants.
    I am so frustrated by the whole business that I want to scream for a very long time!
  12. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    WJEC did not begin regrading today due to their entirely reasonable objection to Welsh and English students gaining different grades for the same mark. The trigger-happy Welsh Government has therefore issued a legal direction to WJEC, compelling them to begin regrading students in Wales.

    In other words, WJEC are being forced to award different grades to Welsh and English students who got the same mark.

    The exam boards got a lot of flak when this crisis first emerged. But, as time goes on, it is becoming clearer and clearer that they are just caught in the middle of this mess.
  13. I don't think the Welsh Governmennt are being "trigger happy".
    I think they're right to try to correct an injustice that's affected students in Wales. Isn't the real scandal that the English Secretary of State seems to accept there's an injustice that has affected students in England but chooses not to do anything about it?
    I'm not a fan of the Welsh Minister for Education but in this instance he's right to act. The issue isn't that Leighton Andrews has acted and then caused a problem. Surely the issue is that Michael Grove is causing a problem by not intervening?

  14. It depends if you cashed everything in, so you still might be able to. My school, however, have not done that so we can have a go at other task banks and work on speaking and listening in year 11 alongside the literature...which is handy because it means we can work with the raised grade boundaries.
  15. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    While I agree with your points about Gove etc., I think you have misunderstood how the legalities of this issue have played out.
    I completely stand by my point that the Welsh Government has been trigger-happy. Allow me to explain:
    Leighton Andrews asked WJEC to regrade the GCSEs yesterday. This request was not legally-binding. He said he would give WJEC 'reasonable time' to comply.
    Late last night, WJEC responded basically saying that they did not know what to do because they were being asked to do one thing in Wales and another in England, meaning students with identical marks would get different grades.
    This morning, WJEC requested a meeting to discuss this with the Welsh Government, preferably with Ofqual and CCEA (in their role as Northern Irish regulators) also in attendance to establish a way forward.
    Andrews ignored this request and, just a few hours later, used his legal powers to force WJEC to begin regrading.
    So, Andrews said he would give WJEC reasonable time to begin acting, but he did not. His desire to excert his power may lead to students in England being treated unfairly. Given Andrews has frequently (and rightly) criticised Gove for failing to acknowledge that the GCSE system is shared by three countries, this is a completely hypocritical act.
    Given the issue has already dragged on for two-and-a-half weeks, a couple more days to set WJEC a fair task would not have made any difference.
    Andrews has put WJEC in a very difficult position. But, once again, it is students (in this case, those in England) who will be the real victims.
    Link/evidence: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-19559429
  16. So, Leighton Andrews asked them to re-grade saying he'd give them reasonable time to comply. It then must have looked to him that they weren't going to comply within a reasonable time as they wanted further discussions about whether they should comply not how they should comply? So, he used his legal powers and directed them to comply within seven days. Could he really leave it to linger for much longer and affect students' futures/chances/opportunities? On balance I still think he's doing the right thing now. He may not have in the past, but he is now.
    Leighton Andrews is right I think to criticise Gove for failing to acknowledge the GCSE is shared between three countries. Didn't Gove publically state he wouldn't intervene? Did he discuss whether to intervene with the Welsh and Northern Irish ministers before making that public announcement? If not, then Andrews would be right to criticise him. Andrews would also be right to now intevene himself without bothering to inform/discuss it with Gove (since Gove has already publically stated he won't intervene). So, who was first to fail to acknowledge/recognise that the GCSE is shared between three countries in relation to this matter. I don't think, considering comments and actions made by Gove over the last year (in relation to exams) that anyone could now blame the Welsh minister for assuming there's little point in trying to discuss the matter with Gove anyway.
    It doesn't seem fair on students in England. But if something is being done (or not done) unfairly to English students it doesn't follow that it should also be done (or not done) to Welsh students. The people of Wales elect the Welsh Government to do the right thing for the people of Wales. I don't see that there should be equity of misery because an English Secretary of State chooses not to intervene - in this matter he is not superior to the Welsh or Northern Irish ministers.
    Just for the record, I am from Wales. I'm not a fan of Leighton Andrews. Quite the opposite in fact. But in the interest of fairness I have to say I think he is right to intervene. I don't think the results are fair. I don't think it'll be fair for Welsh and English students with the same marks to get different grades but Andrews is powerless in relation to that aspect. Where he does have the authority he is intervening to protect Welsh students. I think he's right to do so.
  17. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    WJEC were not refusing to follow Andrews' instructions and were not asking whether or not they should comply. They said:
    Given that the regulators have worked jointly on all matters to date
    relating to WJEC's GCSE English Language awards, it is helpful that the
    Minister's statement indicates that discussions "will continue" with
    Ofqual on the results of WJEC English Language candidates. We look
    forward to further urgent discussions with both regulators in order to
    be clear about the direction we should now take
    (empthasis mine)
    They merely wanted to know how exactly to carry out the instruction.
    I do not think asking for clarification is unreasonable. I certainly teach my students to do it.
    You've misunderstood the point I was making, but I think that's my fault. I was referring to Gove making wide-ranging announcements like O Levels replacing GCSEs.
    You refer to grading. Gove has said he will not interfere with grading because that is Ofqual's job. This is the correct decision (Ofqual are accountable to Parliament, not the Government), though there is the whole issue of whether Ofqual are doing their job properly.
    Wales has no equivalent to Ofqual: Andrews is responsible for qualifications regulations there and therefore takes on an Ofqual-like role.
    Andrews should have set and example by looking to cooperate with the English and Northern Irish regulators - especially after WJEC asked him to.
  18. I think I said something along the lines that "Leighton Andrews may well have thought" or "must have thought". I don't think I explicity stated WJEC "were refusing". But having seen Andrews being interviewed on BBC Wales this evening I suspect that he may well have thought they were.
    I did understand your point regaring O Levels - I just expanded the discussion to illustrate the point I was trying to make.
    In Wales, we had the bonfire of the QUANGOs with their functions being taken inside the Welsh Government (e.g. DCELLs). This means that politicians can't hide behind an argument that it isn't a matter for them (like in England where a minister/secretary of state appoints a head of a QUANGO (say someone he used to work with) and then states that QUANGO is independent). In Wales, the minister is responsible and accountable. He still has officials carrying out the QCA type role (they're the ones that wrote the report) but they are part of his department (rather than the system in England where they are meant to be independent - but do you really believe they are?) and he ultimately is responsible and accountable as the people's elected representative.
    I thought Gove legally does have the legal right to intervene and order re-grading? Don't we elect members of parliament to do the right thing (within the law) and act in the people's interests. When there's an injustice and he has the power to intervene, shouldn't he?

  19. CandysDog

    CandysDog Established commenter

    Not sure. Even if he does, the de facto rule is that only Ofqual have that power.
    And of course I don't think Ofqual is completely independent. It's a shame because when they were first set up, they seemed to be (or at least getting there).
    But in comes Gove and the two top dogs at Ofqual suddenly resign and a sucessor, liked by Gove, is installed.
    As I said in the very first post in the thread, if England, Wales and Northern Ireland are going to share a qualifications system then, devolution or not, it should be regulated on the same terms. It's not Andrews' fault that we have this mess, but his actions today have unnecessarily exposed the flaws in the system.
    It was entirely appropriate for WJEC to say 'hang on a minute' (BBC News's rather nice paraphrase of their statement). It was entirely inappropriate of Andrews to ignore this and flex his legal muscles.
    WJEC is not the enemy here. They are the ones that thought about the unfairness on the students. Andrews may not have any responsibility for students in England, but WJEC do. And they were right to consider this.
  20. The results for Welsh students can be re-graded at the same time or before discussions with OFQUAL and Northern Ireland about how to to then be fair to their students. Thank goodness, one education minister has broken ranks and done the right thing.
    The issue now is how to be fair to English and NIrish candidates. So, I agree that WJEC are right to consider fairness to English and Irish students (a matter for the English and Northern Irish) but that doesn't mean there needs be any hold-up in correcting the injustice to Welsh students.
    I still think Andrews was right to use his legal powers to direct WJEC to re-grade. If we'd have waited for him/WJEC to have reasonable discussions with the English secretary of state/regulator then we could still be waiting this time next year. I don't think there'd have been much chance of the English being fair/reasonable - no students would have had a fair re-grading. At least now, the Welsh students will.

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