Furness Academy and Walney School set to appeal ‘unfair’ exam results
Last updated at 11:13, Monday, 03 September 2012
FURNESS ACADEMY: Click here to read principal Douglas Balckledge's statement
WALNEY SCHOOL: Click here to read headteacher Alan Dickenson's statement
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HEADTEACHERS at two Barrow schools claim students have been treated unjustly and unfairly after changes to GCSE boundaries.
Provisional GCSE figures from Cumbria County Council, the local education authority, revealed Walney School and Furness Academy were two of the poorest performing secondary schools in Cumbria.
Both fell below the new government target of 40 per cent of students gaining five A* to Cs, including English and maths.
Walney School had 32.1 per cent of students achieving five A* to Cs with the two core subjects, and Furness Academy had 35 per cent.
Five Cumbrian schools fell under the 40 per cent benchmark – the lowest performers being Beacon Hill Community School and Technology College in Aspatria and Richard Rose Morton Academy in Carlisle, both with 31 per cent of students achieving the pass rate.
The other is Richard Rose Central Academy at 38 per cent.
The provisional Cumbrian average from 36 of the 37 local authority schools and academies is 57 per cent.
The Association of School and College Leaders has called for this summer’s English papers to be re-marked as tens of thousands of teenagers across the UK are believed to have been adversely affected by grade boundary changes in GCSE English.
It has been claimed exam boards had raised grade boundaries in English halfway through the year amid fears too many children were going to get a C. This was the first year the A* to C pass rate fell in the 24-year history of GCSEs.
Exam regulator Ofqual has met education unions as part of an investigation and is due to publish an initial report.
Walney School headteacher, Alan Dickenson, said there were “clear discrepancies” between the grading of English exams in January and June, which was “unfair” – and the school was working on an appeal.
Furness Academy principal, Douglas Blackledge, said the academy was also preparing an appeal and said “the greatest injustice” was on the students.
The Department for Education said it was Ofqual’s job to make sure that standards were maintained over time and that students received the grades that they
deserved. It has been said that where progress is not sufficient in schools, they could be taken over by more successful institutions or turned into academies.
The department also said schools falling below the 40 per cent benchmark were looked at on a case-by-case basis.
The local authority said provisionally the proportion of students achieving five A* to Cs, with English and maths was; 50 per cent at John Ruskin School in Coniston; 52 per cent at St Bernard’s Catholic High School in Barrow; 55 per cent at Dowdales School in Dalton; 58 per cent at Millom School; 65 per cent at Ulverston Victoria High School; 68 per cent at Cartmel CE Priory School; and 68 per cent at The Lakes School in Troutbeck Bridge.
Validated GCSE results are set to be published in January.
FURNESS Academy principal, Douglas Blackledge, said students appear to have been treated in “a most unjust manner”.
Mr Blackledge said: “Students at Furness Academy and right across the town, the county and the whole of England, appear to have been treated in a most unjust manner by Ofqual and the examination boards regarding this year’s GCSE results. We, along with all the professional bodies associated with secondary education, feel this injustice is clearly evidenced, completely unacceptable and needs to be thoroughly, transparently and perhaps independently investigated. Should it be found that errors have been made then corrective measures should be put immediately into place. This has to be done if only for the sake of the students and their life chances and we are endeavouring to play our part in achieving that aim.
“Our students GCSE results, in both English and Mathematics, have quite clearly been severely affected by very late and significant changes to the grade boundaries carried out by the AQA examining board in both subjects. Many headteachers, principals, sponsors and local authorities seem to be of the belief that this may well of occurred as a direct consequence of pressures being brought to bear on Ofqual (the parliamentary appointed regulatory body for qualifications) and the examination boards to ‘raise standards’.
“Whilst we fully embrace the need to raise standards nationally, locally and in the academy itself, a task we are actually making good progress with overall, it is so completely unfair on students, staff and parents to do so in this manner at the end rather than the start of a course.
“In English this summer, it has transpired to be the case that students needed to earn 10 marks more for a C pass in the written component than they would have had to have done in January. It was also the case that a further 5 marks were needed in the speaking and listening component to hit the same level. Students all over the country have been awarded a whole grade lower at the C/D border for the same standard of work according to whether or not they were entered for the January or June exam series, and that simply cannot be right.
“In Mathematics, grade boundaries were raised by 5 marks for a C grade on the foundation tier paper and by 6 marks on the higher tier level of entry in comparison with their own specimen papers, mark schemes and grade boundaries. For both Maths and English these are not the normal levels of variation that one expects to find each year; they are extreme and have come right at the end of a two year course and without notification.
“This has affected the C/D border most of all, in both subjects, and therefore also the headline performance indicators of the schools and academies, like ours, which have a disproportionately high number of students within that critical range.
“Although we have actually hit the new floor targets in each of English and Maths, despite the impact of the changed grade boundaries, it is in the ‘5 x A* - C including English and Mathematics’ indicator that we have most obviously been affected, especially regarding the new floor targets.
“It is important to emphasise that this matter is being investigated at the highest levels and should corrective measures be taken, as they so clearly should, our current figures will potentially change and could even change rather dramatically for the better.
“With the January 2012 grade boundaries being maintained, our results would actually be comparable with last year. It remains to be seen whether or not any changes will be made nationally and/or as a result of individual appeals from schools and academies, and if so to what degree. We are currently finalising our evidence for appeals and I know very many other schools and academies are doing the same.
“The greatest injustice that we feel in all this, however, is absolutely not for ourselves, but for the effect this has had on the students, and of course their teachers too. Neither of them deserve to be treated in such an unfair manner and could never have expected for this to have happened.”
ALAN Dickenson, the headteacher of Walney School, said his team had found discrepancies between the gradings in the January and June exams.
Mr Dickenson said: “We knew we were vulnerable to the political change and reform of the grade boundaries. We are statistically under performing at this stage.
“We feel very strongly that, particularly in English and maths, and other subjects, we have suffered from what appears to be uplifting of the grade boundaries.
“Our intention is to appeal, we are gathering all the evidence.
“Our immediate analysis shows very clear discrepancies. It is not being fair to a year group if they are being treated differently in one period to another.”
Mr Dickenson said the school had provided its findings to the Association of School and College Leaders survey, and said the most vulnerable students have suffered.
He said: “We want fairness for the students. The changes are very heavy handed and unfair.”
First published at 14:09, Friday, 31 August 2012
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
Have your say
The main issue is that the Academy has lost a lot of experienced staff through time who have either voted with their feet and left or been voted out. You can't underestimate the power of an experienced 'Dad's Army' of staff to keep order and discipline.
Then: Academy 'transformational', Principal 'inspirational', building 'iconic'.
Now: nearly two thirds of students fail to get 2 good GCSE passes in both Maths and English. How hollow words can be.
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