Changing the GCSE goalposts

The future of our planet rests in the hands of our children, whether you are talking about the environment or the economy. It follows, therefore, that the importance of a quality education and schooling cannot be overstated. However, there have been some disturbing developments in the UK’s education system over the past week.

Leaked letters showed that the regulator Ofqual had urged an exam board (Edexcel) to alter its GCSE English grade boundaries just two weeks before the results were published. Despite claiming that the grades were ‘fair’ Ofqual’s chief regulator, Glenys Stacey, faces calls to resign.

I do not doubt that fresh revelations will be forthcoming over the coming weeks. It is doubt which creates the biggest problem in all of this. If we cannot trust the exam boards and regulators to provide a fair check on the standards that our young people are achieving, then we will lose an important benchmark for the education system as whole.

In August’s QW magazine, I wrote that league tables were losing value, and that proper accreditation and regulation would be the key to improving standards. The fact that the GCSE grade boundaries were changed at such short notice is a worrying development. The boundaries should be carefully thought through and implemented with care. On the existing evidence, there is an urgent need to drive improvement in the exam system.

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