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Essex: Teachers slam Government ‘tinkering’ for affecting GCSE results

Elizabeth Adams and Charlotte Levine received their GSCE results at Clacton County High School on Thursday August 21.

Elizabeth Adams and Charlotte Levine received their GSCE results at Clacton County High School on Thursday August 21.

Students across north Essex got their GCSE results yesterday, but some teachers slammed Whitehall interference in the exam system.

A number of schools in the county celebrated an improvement in their overall results in line with the national picture.

However education leaders hit out at Government “tinkering” with GCSEs, saying it left students open to failure.

Nardeep Sharma, executive principal of the Outstanding-rated Colne Community School and College in Brightlingsea which saw 71% of pupils attain the national standard – up one per cent on last year – said: “Despite the Government raising the bar, changes in education policy, reduction in school funding and Government tinkering with exams, the school has remained on a highly positive trajectory.

“In the summer Ofqual warned of ‘volatility’ this year in the GCSE results which translates to widespread interference and instructions to the exam boards to arrive at the pass percentage Ofqual had already decided on.

“Inevitably widespread concerns are being expressed by Essex schools about their results. Some schools have fared well depending on whether they took certain types of exams and cashed in the results early.

“However, large numbers of schools in Essex and in other counties are reporting significant drops in English, linear maths and some sciences. This has the effect of hitting a wide range of students but most significantly large numbers of middle ability students getting D grades instead of C grades, which they would have achieved with last year’s grade boundaries.

“Therefore we are looking at a significant number of schools with lower than expected five A*-C with English and maths percentages this year. I would appeal to governors to support their headteachers and schools who are in this situation and not have a knee jerk blame reaction.

“I feel that the Government should act swiftly to address the issues it has created in the interests of students across the country.”

Thurstable School, in Tiptree, saw a dip in the benchmark standard down to 47%, which it described as disappointing.

The poor results were attributed to a number of middle ability students on the C/D grade borderline in both English and maths who got Ds, in line with “volatility nationally” in that area.

A number of remarks and appeals are underway and the school hopes the overall level will rise, but pledged to work with those students who are staying on for sixth form to improve their standards.

Several headteachers commented on their relief that their school’s results had held up to the changes.

Barry Hersom, principal of the Colchester Academy, in Greenstead, also said the “large scale changes to the examination system have done our children no favours” as the school’s overall results were “disappointing”.

Mr Hersom said getting rid of the option to do modules early meant pupils’ confidence could not be built up with early exam success.

Essex County Council announced that 56% of the 15,000 students getting results achieved the national five or more A*-C grades including English and maths, in the new league table measure which excludes re-sits and equivalent marks from other qualifications.

Under the old standard 58% of pupils got the benchmark, up from 53.5% the previous year.

Ray Gooding, county councillor for education, said: “Congratulations to all who have collected their GCSE results today.

“I know an awful lot of hard work has been put in by pupils across the county and I am delighted their efforts have been rewarded. Whatever their plans I wish them all the very best of luck.

“I would also like to thank teachers, parents and carers for the invaluable support they have provided. Today’s results, achieved against a backdrop of exam system reform, represent a well-deserved achievement and I am very pleased for all involved.”

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