Ofqual and GCSE English marking fiasco: are teachers being blamed or not?

If you don’t know about what’s been going on with Ofqual then you’ve done very well, because this is probably the most prominent education news story of 2012. Essentially, English grade boundaries were revised upwards during the marking process this summer – leaving students with lower grade results than were expected. Students taking the exam in January were not subject to this boundary change and so received higher grades. Teachers had their goalposts moved long after they were able to do anything about it and without warning. 

The latest news is that a report from Ofqual has said that the last minute change was necessary because of the high number of students achieving grades C and above. They suggest it is the internal marking of coursework and predicted grades from teachers that are to blame, with overmarking and cheating becoming so much the norm that they were forced to take this action.

Is this more teacher bashing, or not?

The initial reaction would, of course, be to say yes. Accusing teachers of cheating in order to make themselves look good, seems to be in line with the current presumption that there are teachers all over the country who can’t do their job and aren’t being held accountable for that. Not only are they all teaching rubbish lessons, they are covering up that fact by inflating their students grades.

On close inspection, however, that’s not actually what Ofqual are saying. In reality, the report exposes the ridiculously high expectations that force teachers to cheat and over-inflate grades just to keep their jobs and careers. Tom Bennett has become very good at exposing the misquotes and overzealous cries of bullying that accompany every media article about teachers now. I can’t explain this any better than he has, so you should read his article: The Empire Strikes Back: Ofqual, and the omnishambles of assessment

I am concerned though, that in deciding it is not teacher bashing is again blaming teachers: if not for cheating then for calling bullying where none exists. I think there is that much bullying and bashing now, that teachers pointing this out are said to be making malicious allegations as a way of bullying them further. Is calling teachers cheats, and then calling them over defensive for contesting this, not just like teacher bashing squared?

I don’t for a second think that the vast majority of people are going to see this for what it is: some evidence and an admission that teacher’s working conditions are causing poor standards, and that pressure and workload on front line teachers needs to reduce dramatically in order for this sort of thing to stop. I think most people, including politicians and inspectors, are going to use it as a reason to and evidence with which to bash teachers.

Do you think the Ofqual report is blaming teachers? Are you under pressure to cheat and overmark? Please comment below.


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