Teaching union looks into unexpected GCSE swings in disadvantaged areas

Aug 23, 2014 by

Association of School and College Leaders warns poorer neighbourhoods may have been most affected by grade volatility

A teaching union has launched a study after signs that the wild swings in Thursday’s GCSE results have hit schools in disadvantaged areas hardest.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), warned of an “emerging pattern” whereby schools in poorer neighbourhoods have been most affected by the volatility in grades.

“We’ve got some schools that are 10 or 12 percentage points below their expected pass rate. Some are reporting it in one subject such as maths or English. One school I’ve got, which is an academy, had predicted it would get 44% 5 A*-Cs and it has got 30%,” he said.

“A range of schools have had unexpected results,” Lightman said. “But certainly the pattern appears to be that schools with a high number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been affected more. There are big risks to social mobility here and opportunities for those young people.”

Experts at the headteachers’ union will look at a sample of unexpected results to find why grades have fallen. Before the release of results, Ofqual, the exam regulator, said some schools should expect variation on last year after an overhaul of the system, with a return to end-of-course exams and changes to the way English is assessed.

Across the country, however, it says headline figures are stable. Overall the results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed a very modest increase in the proportion of pupils getting at least grade C, up 0.7 percentage points to 68.8%. Grades in English fell by almost two percentage points – from 63.6% in 2013 to 61.7%.

Analysis released by the regulator suggests that schools have seen most variation in English grades.

“This appears to be less in schools that used a linear approach in 2013 and more pronounced in schools that have previously used a modular approach and those that used re-sitting,” the regulator said.

Ofqual compared schools where more than half of pupils previously resat at least one GCSE, with secondaries where the resit rate was below 50%. It found that schools in which resitting was common saw their C grade results drop by an average of 3.66 percentage points on last year. Other schools saw falls of 1.18 points. An analysis of schools where the majority of pupils sit modular exams showed the same trend.

via Teaching union looks into unexpected GCSE swings in disadvantaged areas | Education | The Guardian.

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