Published: Tuesday August 28, 2012
By TOM FOOT
SEVEN secondary schools in Camden are demanding that Conservative Education Secretary Michael Gove rethinks the “devastating” impact of downgrading hundreds of English pupils at their schools.
Headteachers at Acland Burghley, Hampstead, Parliament Hill, South Camden Community School, La Sante Union, William Ellis and Camden School for Girls have signed a letter to Mr Gove expressing “shock” at the “real tragedy” of Thursday's GCSE fiasco.
English exam boards raised the grade boundaries for this year's English language GCSE, leading to massive drop in pupils getting crucial A-Cs at some schools.
The letter said Camden was “disproportionately” affected and that students' futures had been "thrown into disarray".
The statement added: “As heads, we know our schools, we know our teachers and the strengths and weaknesses in subjects. We have been shocked by these English results. Our English departments are strong and experienced and we would usually expect their results to be among our best. This year they are not. We would usually expect the opposite. How is such an unfair division between students in the same year group justifiable?”
The letter said teaching was improving rather than GCSEs getting easier and that teaching towards an exam was not “cheating”.
It added: "We have experienced significant numbers of students who we consider 'solid C grades' achieving Ds. In one in one school a third of the year group achieving a grade below their prediction. In one of our schools, 70 per cent of those re-taking the exam in June did worse.
"Besides the devastating impact on individual students, this manoeuvring by exam boards and policy makers will seriously undermine professional practice.
"The real tragedy is the impact on individual students who have worked consistently and determinedly for two years and who, in any other year, would have secured a C grade.
"Ministers have been quoted as saying they wanted to 'stop the rot of grade inflation'. Grade inflation is a misnomer. We would not expect goal posts – or grade boundaries - to be changed at the last minute, impacting both on controlled assessment grades and exam grades."
Jo Shuter, headteacher at Quintin Kynaston in Swiss Cottage, has also written to Mr Gove stating that English has been the school’s leading department for 12 years, yet the pass rate dropped from 82 to 68 per cent.
She said it “defies belief” that many top students passed 12 GCSEs, yet got D grades in English, while others were unexpectedly given U grades.
A spokesman for English GCSE exam board Ofqual said: We are confident that standards have been maintained and that the grades awarded are right. The performance required to achieve each grade is the same as last year. Differences in pass rates reflect differences in the group of students taking the exams.”