Don’t blame the teachers for grade inflation

For the second year running, GCSE and A-Level results are not being determined by external exams.  Due to coronavirus disruption different methods have been used. Teachers were asked to grade students based on evidence available to them.  This might include work previously submitted and a range of assessments set under exam conditions at the end of the course. Schools were given parameters to work within when setting grades based on past performance. Once grades were set, the exam boards were able to call for evidence from schools to justify the grades.

This is important because teachers frequently get a bad press. Now there are brilliant teachers and not so brilliant ones, diligent and not so diligent just like in any profession. And I’m sure that as well as schools that rigorously followed the guidelines even if it meant marking students down who the teachers would have loved to have given a higher grade to, there will be those who chanced it a bit and pushed the boundaries. However, the latter should have been spotted by the Exam Boards.

Exam boards are paid a handsome whack by the schools for providing a service.  I think there are already issues with that.  It’s similar to the issues you have in industry when the Quality Inspection company is paid by the company they inspect.  That you have different exam boards offering slightly different syllabuses which schools can choose between doesn’t really fit with the idea of a rigorous national curriculum.  Usually, you would expect a significant proportion of the fee to go out to paying the markers and moderators but this has not happened over the last couple of years. So, it is also reasonable to ask what the exam boards are there for and whether they provide good value for money when it comes to public funds.

The specific point here is that if we are seeing grade inflation, then the exam boards were the ones in a position to stop that from happening.  Before there’s a rush to blame teachers or change the grading system again I suggest that Gavin Williamson pays close attention to the root cause of the problem.