Our GCSE system, with its comparable outcomes basis, undervalues the achievements
of too many students. This must end, says Geoff Barton
The exams season is upon us once again and I know many readers of SecEd will be doing everything possible with their teams, in a characteristically calm and reassuring way, to ensure your students are as prepared as possible.
I also know the students you will be most concerned about are those you are trying to get on the right side of the GCSE cliff-edge of a Grade 4, particularly in English and maths. You will know, better than anyone, how high the stakes are for these young people.
At ASCL, our concern is that the current system is constructed in a way which means far too many young people fall on the wrong side of that cliff-edge. It consigns around one-third of 16-year-olds to attaining less than a “standard pass” in English and maths each year – qualifications which are seen as a passport to onward progression in education and are required for entry to many careers.
The reason this happens lies in the system of “comparable outcomes” under which, at national level, the percentage of pupils achieving the respective grades is roughly aligned with the outcomes achieved by previous cohorts of similar ability.