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The Impact of Limiting Success

It seems that students and schools might want to brace themselves for a significant down turn in results; that’s how the statistics may be read.  This year the number of jumping, smiling, certificate holding straight 9s students may well be between 0-2.

That is apparently 0-2 nationally not per school.  So few students will actually achieve a grade 9; whilst happy to fully support aspiration, there comes a point at which you have to question what the value of the extra grade is.  What can it actually be used for?  Bragging rights isn’t really a good enough reason to design a national system around.

This is the beginning of a bit of the chaos quietly built into the GCSE system in the years ahead.  Last year it was primary schools’ turn with the new scaled score meaning far fewer pupils meeting the expected standard.  The fact that the expected standard had become much more demanding, so fewer pupils reached it, didn’t really cut it with pupils, parents or teachers.

Literally nothing will be comparable in the years ahead.  By 2018, the new GCSE standard, comparable internationally, will be a grade 5; somewhere around the top third of the current C grade.  This will become the defacto expected standard that will be impossible for many students to reach.  High flying students who don’t achieve a suite of grade 9s or the multitude of middle attainers, at the end of Key Stage 2, who fall the wrong side of the grade 5 line will undoubtedly feel a sense of failure.  I know life can be tough but that doesn’t mean we ram it down a 16 year olds throat.  Life and all its trials and tribulations will find them soon enough.

The combined English & Mathematics percentage may plummet by 10% or more nationally.  The hordes of students made to study the E-Bacc, for the sake of a school’s statistics, are more likely to miss the pass grade 5 in one of their subjects; their results will be excluded from the exclusive E-Bacc measure.

All of this seems an unnecessary distraction – why not allow a few more students to achieve a grade B and then the government could use A*-B for their international comparisons; it’s the impact on the mindset of teachers and pupils that worries me most.

To become a great education system, compared with others around the World, we should be setting a high standard and focusing all our attention on maximising the number of pupils who reach and attain above it.  Instead, rationing success feeds the “can’t do so why bother” mentality that damages our education system.  Mastery becomes less relevant; many pupils’ aspirations maybe lowered as this limiting of success has unforeseen consequences.



3 thoughts on “The Impact of Limiting Success

  1. What would be interesting to know is if target prediction systems will also limit the amount of 9 targets predicted in line with the small percentage that will actually be awarded – otherwise teachers are fighting a losing battle from the end of Key Stage 2!

    Posted by headofenglishblog | March 27, 2017, 9:02 pm
  2. Most ‘target setting methodologies’ are based on gcse outcomes of students with the same ks2 results nationally. Most often the mean or mode of those national outcomes are used. Even for the old gcses and using fft20 there were very few a* grade targets. I would imagine grade 9 targets will be like hens teeth unless s hooks start artificially adapting sound methodologies (“we use Fft and then add an extra grade – look at us – we are ambitious”)

    Posted by Steve | March 28, 2017, 12:54 am


  1. Pingback: Educational Reader’s Digest | Friday 24th March – Friday 31st March – Douglas Wise - March 31, 2017

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