Somerset schools get rough deal

There has been much frustration and angst over the A level results. Having seen one set of algorithms fail to come up with the goods, Somerset pupils may be about to feel the wrath of another. So says Robin Head, the National Education Union rep for Somerset. In the absence of exams, central government has moderated the expected marks given by teachers through a system designed to make a level playing field. This has been based on a series of mathematical calculations, algorithms, that review past performance of a school as a guide for current year results. However as teachers all claim to have followed the government guidelines in assessing pupil grades to start with, this was bound to be controversial.

Not only have A results treated Somerset pupils poorly but the GCSE results about to be produced are likely to do the same. Mr Head told The Leveller® “The chaos engendered by the process by which this year’s A Level results have been calculated has caused a huge amount of upset for young people and families in Somerset. It has also caused huge stress for the teachers who feel they have the moral responsibility for giving the young people under their care the best opportunities in life they can.

  The elephant in the room however is that this is exactly how the system is designed to work in any case. It is entirely unfair leading to skewed results and life chances for young people from schools that have found it challenging to achieve above the “national average” in the past. The only difference this year is that instead of exam papers being marked and recalibrated behind closed doors, this year’s results are out in the open as they are taken from teacher assessment gathered from years of working closely with individual pupils. Schools and students have never before been more closely monitored and assessed and so there is no reason, in the absence of a final examination, to do anything else than accept the grades as awarded. Seeking to rank order them, norm reference them then standardize them makes no sense whatsoever other than to try to judge schools and put them in a nonsensical and meaningless league table placing. And now this week the same monstrous situation will happen again to thousands of 16 year olds as they await their GCSE results.

      Having given our young people, the grades they have worked for and deserve, we should then set up about challenging the whole system of qualifications and how we appraise education nationally. What has been unmasked this week is how the education of young people has been politically manipulated to determine winners and losers based on an “algorithm” which discriminates from the outset and judges young people’s futures on the past results of others. Put purely and simply, if you are in a more socially disadvantaged area you are more likely to be have your score levelled down than if you live in a more affluent area or if you attend a private school. This HAS to change.

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