Are you ready to be duped? The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), the government’s qualifications watchdog, is busy preparing the ground for another cover-up. A-Level results are out on Thursday, with GCSEs to follow a week later. Consequently, this non-ministerial government department is desperate to pull the wool over our eyes by pretending that all is well in the best of all possible worlds of public examinations.
Be prepared, then, to become the victim of yet another educational hoax. Last year, the watchdog performed a similar trick. As part of a strategy to explain how the first batch of tougher exams could produce results that were largely unchanged compared with previous years, its head, Sally Collier, told The Sunday Times:
I want the message to be that students have done fantastically well. All our kids are brilliant.
‘From my point of view the most important thing for our students is that they get the praise they deserve for having undertaken new courses of study, whether A-Levels or GCSEs, and we recognise the work schools have done to get there and we are not detracting from that.
The truth, though, was spotted, as this bold headline made clear:
Government willingness to go along with the fraud was evident in a subsequent newspaper article by the schools minister Nick Gibb:
This time round, the duplicity underpinning what will doubtless be a broad maintenance of pass grades is subtler. Ofqual offers the pretence of an honest admission that there will have been grade manipulation:
We know from our research that student performance dips a little in the first years of a new qualification, because teachers are less familiar with the new specifications and there are fewer support materials and past papers for students to use. Using statistics compensates for that dip, so that the 2018 cohort is not unfairly disadvantaged by being the first to sit these new qualifications.
This is a great deception. The biggest change to public exams in the past fifty years was the replacement of GCE O-Level by the GCSE exam in 1988. This was followed by twenty-three years of ever-improving grades. There was no ‘dip’ in performance consequent on the introduction of the new and equivalent exam.
The role of Ofqual should not be to peddle lies and half-truths. It is not the department of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda à la Lord Haw-Haw. Its modus operandi should not be ‘Ofqual calling, Ofqual calling. Believe us because of who we are.’
Instead, Ofqual, tell us the truth! Better still, scrap these bogus exam grades and replace them with the percentage actually scored by a candidate. A ‘good pass’ grade C or its equivalent 15 per cent score – which is more honest and informative?