I taught GCSE English for the first time this year. I taught an intensive course for those that need to retake GCSEs. My class was made up of adults and young people.
I took over the class in January after another teacher left. This left me to teach most of the marked work on the course. I taught controlled assessments - which are timed essays responding to a question and learners are not given the opportunity of making changes to these after the given time. I also taught the novels for the exam.
The schools that teach GCSEs are known for handing back coursework again and again until pupils achieve a good grade. This is mostly because of pressure to succeed put on teachers. Schools have a lot more time to complete the GCSE course, and even take pupils off timetable to improve their coursework in key subjects. However, I had 2 hours a week, without the opportunity of marking and handing back work to pupils.
I marked carefully when marking these assessments, and marked down practice papers in order to account for a worst case scenario for my pupils. Even doing that doesn't seem to have prepared my students for the downgrading that seems to have happened this year. It seems so unfair that my students have been downgraded when they haven't had the opportunity to correct their work.
I looked at the notes of the exams published by Edexcel, a GCSE exam board. On there are examples of answers the learners may have written and the points they would have been awarded. Many of my learners have consistently written at a higher standard than what I read on that website, and yet have achieved much lower marks in the exam than the article would have indicated.
This isn't an issue for me in terms of my career, as my college seems satisfied with the results, and counts all grades from A-F as a pass, which means none of my learners failed. It is my learners who seemed to be working at a sound C grade that have now come out with a D that I feel for. Another year of their life will need to be commited to the course. This provides a barrier for many of my learners. I had some excellent adult students who worked above and beyond the level expected, who only came out with a B or an A. I'm not sure what they are expecting.
It is a shame that I am not allowed to see the exam papers and understand where my learners have gone wrong, and it is unfair for these learners that this seems to be the year that the exams are downgraded. There should be consistency across the board for these qualifications: they should neither be becoming easier or harder to gain a good grade.
I am sure many colleges are rejoicing, since many students may have no choice but to opt for a college course rather than attending sixth form. This year of their lives may have had a massive impact on the career they end up with. There may also be knock on effects on sixth forms and University application numbers. I just hope the young people affected don't lose hope.
What do you think of the change of GCSE grade boundaries?