Headteacher calls for 'overhaul' of GCSE gradings after exams scrapped

Philip Hurst, headteacher of Thomas Mills High School, backs Sizewell C Picture: ARCHANT

Philip Hurst, headteacher of Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham

A leading Suffolk headteacher believes grading of GCSEs should not return to how it was before the pandemic after two years of cancelled exams.

Philip Hurst, headteacher of Thomas Mills High School in Framlingham, said final exams can "never totally reflect" students' abilities.

He said teachers' assessments should also be considered when calculating a student's grade.

A total of 28.9% of GCSE grades awarded on Thursday in England were at 7 or above - a slight rise from 26.2% last year.

Teacher assessments were used to calculate final results after exams were cancelled for the second year in a row.

As Mr Hurst said further lockdowns could be enforced in the future, he has called for future GCSEs to be determined through a near-equal hybrid of exams and in-school assessment.


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He said: "The big advantage of final papers is that the examination boards can use the same assessment for all students and set an agreed standard marked independently. It assumes that students have reached their academic best.

GCSE results day at Debenham High School. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Students across Suffolk picked up their GCSEs on Thursday - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"The problem is that such a system can never totally reflect all of a student's abilities. It will advantage some students and disadvantage others.

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"A final examination will also test a limited amount of content and this makes the system a bit of a lottery for the student.

"All teachers can assess - that’s a core part of their job. Where they will disagree is where you draw the line between one grade and the next. The examination boards have huge experience with this.

"It is time to overhaul the system of qualifications not just to deal with the consequences of the pandemic, but to ensure a system fit for this decade and beyond."

Despite the rise in the number of top grades awarded, Mr Hurst dismissed suggestions that results had inflated this year.

He said: "It’s a nonsense really that has been going on for decades. As a society we are always wanting students to do better, and when they do, the conclusion of the critics is that standards must have dropped.

"We all want our young people to do well and they have and should be congratulated for it. I’m sure that many more successes will come their way."


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