Success And Failure: Keeping Perspective During The Exam Season

The anticipation of exam results, the dry mouth, heart-racing moment when exam grades are revealed and joy ensues for thousands of students is a wonderful thing, but for some, the end of August will be the lowest point in a young person’s educational life. We’ve already seen the A Level results, a rise in the number of A and A* grades, to an incredible 26.3%, but with new English and Maths courses, things may be different for GCSE students this year. We hope for success, but when we talk about exams, whose success are we considering? The assumption is the students’ academic success, but of course, that’s not the whole picture.

Firstly, will the new system itself be judged as a success or a failure? This year’s students will be receiving a somewhat confusing spread of number and letter grades. The claim for a new GCSE system was that it would help drive up standards. The tougher subject specifications were meant to make courses more demanding. If marking remains broadly consistent, there could therefore be a drop in grades or greater mark inaccuracy with narrower grade bands. Of course, that kind of news can be spun, but it’s not good press, for even though the old and new systems can’t strictly be compared, they will be. The old pass mark of grade ‘C’ equals both a ‘4’ and a ‘5’. ‘4’ is a pass, but ‘5’ is a ‘good’ pass so will those students receiving grade 4s see them as good enough and could this exacerbate feelings of failure?

It’s an unpredictable situation and could prove difficult for schools. Each student’s results comprise the perceived success or failure of their respective school, its curriculum and its leadership, as well as government education policy. Much is at stake. We know that there could be discrepancies between the kind of successes many schools have enjoyed in the past and the realities of this year’s grades. Controlled assessment is gone, the numbers taking iGCSE are reduced and more students are taking English Literature, given English’s weighting in terms of Progress…

Read Story

Share This Post