Exams results and why they should be graded differently

Exams results and why they should be graded differently

Despite the grumbling from certain quarters it is good to see school exam results return to pre-pandemic grading.

These year groups have had it tough with reduced teaching due to the closure of schools during the pandemic and teacher strikes.

Nevertheless, the grades had to return to 2019 levels at some point because otherwise, the confusion would have remained – as it will in Scotland, where students are still being given extra help.

Employers and universities will know that the years 2020-2023 were tough on students and they’ll act accordingly.

 As I said at the time of the lockdowns, exams should have continued in schools.

It was possible to have done cut-down tests with students remaining socially distanced. After all, schools were empty.

Despite being pleased that the grading has returned to pre-pandemic levels (although grades are slightly higher than in 2019), there are still major issues with the system.

For example, more than 25 per cent of students receive top grades. It is too many.

The previous system allowed for just the top 10 per cent to receive the top grade. It was limited so only the top tenth got As.

Around 20 per cent got a B, and so it cascaded.

It meant that the difficulty of the examination did not determine the number of candidates who received a particular grade. This is a better system and should be returned to.

Also, the 9 to 1 grading system in GCSEs does not really make sense.

Who would consider a 3rd on a degree to be the best pass? It has to be a first.

Athletes win 1st place not 9th place.

The system is the wrong way up. If you are going to grade by numbers then a 1 should be the best as it is the first number.

The grading could have easily been fixed by simply adding in B* rather than moving to the 9-1 system. There was no need to turn the system upside down and make it more confusing.

The grading would then be as follows:

Current grading         More sensible grading

9                                           A*

8                                           A

7                                           B*

6                                           B

5  Strong Pass                  C

4  Standard Pass             D

3                                           E

2                                           F

1                                           G

They have designated that a strong pass is a 5 and a standard pass is a 4. This makes no sense either. You either pass or you don’t pass.

There appears to be an attempt to make the GCSEs kinder to those who take them.

It would be better to strengthen their academic prowess by making them tougher and more rigorous.

For those who do not demonstrate academic ability it would be better to go in a more technical direction at 14 rather than pushing them through an academic route.

This also applies to A Levels. It is better for those who are more vocationally orientated to pursue a technical option.

Hopefully, the T Level qualifications will achieve this.

We should be following something similar to the German model.

This offers high-quality academic education for those who are academically orientated, and high-quality vocational education for those more suited to this direction.

Lastly, a big shout-out to the students who have taken exams and to their teachers. It’s been extremely difficult for the education sector over the last few years.

I am hoping that policy advisers will take lessons and learn from these strange years.

One thing that ought to be apparent is the importance of keeping schools open. Many students simply never returned to classes after the lockdowns.

This is dreadful for them, and bad for the country.