Melanie McDonagh

Why can’t pupils take their exams in June?

Why can't pupils take their exams in June?
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Ofqual, the exams watchdog, has issued a consultation document about its proposals for exams this year. It’s proposing to delegate the whole business of awarding grades to teachers, based on mocks, previous work and anything else that comes to mind. Pupils would not, under these plans, be able to appeal the 'professional judgment' of teachers as it would be 'inappropriate, ineffective and unfair'. 

Well, I suppose they think that presenting adjectives in threes in the Ciceronian fashion may convince some punters, but it still isn’t enough to hide this dog’s breakfast of a way at arriving at the crucial results on which quite a few young peoples’ futures depend. In the first place, teachers have a rubbish record at predicting grades – they get it right in about 40 per cent of cases, overestimating and underestimating in about equal degrees. In the second place, when pupils were actually doing mocks, homework and the rest of it, they did so without knowing that this would be the basis of their results.

Since this is a consultation inviting a response, here is mine. Give children and schools who want it the chance to do a proper, objective exam in June – not September, as Ofsted suggests. That way, you’d still be able to issue results in August – on or maybe just a bit later than the original schedule. That way universities and schools could base their decisions for at least some pupils on a test, rather than on teachers’ best guesses. 

But if examiners are to be assembled and schools are to make the practical arrangements, they really need to know as soon as possible what’s happening. Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, has done himself no favours by delegating this crucial decision to the ineffectual Sally Collier of Ofqual; he should have taken matters into his own hands. It’s not too late to do so. As matters stand the words 'inappropriate, ineffective and unfair' are quite a good way to sum up this wretched proposal.

Written byMelanie McDonagh

Melanie McDonagh is a contributor to The Spectator.

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