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Wednesday, September 23, 2020
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Fake grades for fake exams

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WHAT a shambles the publication of public examination grades has turned out to be. First of all results were intended to be largely based on teacher predictions. This produced a 12 per cent improvement on last summer’s grades for A-Level grades and a 9 per cent improvement for GCSE. Teachers are notoriously unreliable when it comes to making such predictions. A London University study reported an accuracy rate of 16 per cent. 

Consequent panic at the Department for Education produced an equally unintelligent solution. It was decided that a computer algorithm could be deployed to standardise scores by building a school’s past examination record into the equation. This would ensure that average-ability pupils in successful schools would be over-generously rewarded in terms of their A-Level grade. Bright youngsters in failing schools were the most likely to be down-graded, on the grounds that their school’s exam record over the years has been poor.

Computer says ‘no’ will be the explanation for a highly able pupil failing to get a top grade on account of the poor school he or she attended. This is an outrage and the government know it. So they have presented us with a third piece of window-dressing. If evidence is available, the grades awarded will not be below the grade achieved in a mock exam. How many teachers predict grades lower than mock exam performance?

This appearance that this year’s exam grades have been generous to many pupils is a deceit. Candidates have been defrauded by a counterfeit examination currency. The truth is that there have not been any A-Level or GCSE exams this summer. All the government needed to do was to publish teacher-prediction certificates.

Walter Scott was right: ‘O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.’ The boss of Ofqual, the government’s watchdog for exam standards, set out its position a few years ago by announcing that ‘all our kids are brilliant’. 

Most parents and most teachers urge children to be honest. Ofqual and the government, however, appear to have taken to heart a lesson attributed to Groucho Marx. To paraphrase: ‘Truth, honesty and integrity are what matter most in life. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.’

Some in the educational establishment, the Blob, are more shocked by honesty from the likes of me than they are by Ofqual’s dishonesty and by governmental chicanery. By underwriting a counterfeit examination currency, they are aiding and abetting a great defrauding of young people.

Why can we not be allowed to face up to the truth? This year’s so-called examination results are fake grades for a fictitious exam. By definition they are not exam results. It is time for the lying to stop.

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Chris McGovern
Chris McGovernhttp://www.cre.org.uk
Chris McGovern is the Chairman of the Campaign for Real Education. A retired head teacher with 35 years’ teaching experience, Chris is a former advisor to the Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street under two Prime Ministers.

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