Dishonesty is the best policy when it comes to education
We were all required to submit grades for the students who would have sat the GCSE examinations in the summer. Using the evidence of mock examination marks and students’ work, and noting their attitude to learning, we were to predict grades and to rank the students from the person whom we would have expected to get the highest mark to the person who might have been anticipated to have received the lowest mark.
Our parameters were clear, the results were expected to be similar to those achieved in 2019. It would not be acceptable to submit a list of grades that did not conform to last year’s grade distribution
Once individual teachers had completed their lists of predicted grades, these were passed to the heads of department and heads of faculty for moderation. There was a further process of moderation by the senior leadership team.
The process was rigorous, the logic was robust, if we had been challenged, we could have explained exactly how we had arrived at the results we had submitted. We could have produced evidence to substantiate our claims. In statistical terms, the bell curve of our results matched that of previous years. Our results would have been those that would have been produced by the government model.
We discovered in August that rigorous, robust honesty was not the preferred option of the Education Secretary or of the Prime Minister. When shrill teenage voices were raised against the government “algorithm,” Williamson and Johnson saw a danger of becoming unpopular. The outcry meant the government quickly caved into pressure from students that teacher grades should be accepted.
Of course, the teachers feeding the discontent will have told their students that they would have done much better if they had not been downgraded by the government’s system. It is always easier to transfer responsibility for difficult decisions to someone else.
Perhaps the outcome would have been fair if all schools had adhered to similar processes to determine the grades, but they did not. It seems that schools which adhered to government guidelines have found themselves outperformed by those whose processes seem to have been less rigorous and robust.
There is no opportunity of appeal for those who feel that their honesty has met with an unfair reward, no recourse to upward adjustment for those teachers who submitted grades they believed to be a true and accurate representation of the likely attainment of students.
Had we known that a set of higher grades might be submitted, and be accepted, there would have been a temptation to be less than honest.
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