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Hartsdown Academy, Margate, executive principal Andy Somers calls for settled exam criteria for students

By Julia Collins
Andy Somers, Chair of Thanet Head Teachers and Executive Principal of Hartsdown Academy in Margate
Andy Somers, Chair of Thanet Head Teachers and Executive Principal of Hartsdown Academy in Margate

Exams results for thousands of students across the UK varied more this summer than in recent years and it has prompted Andy Somers, chair of Thanet Headteachers, to call for a fixed seven-year timescale to be set without any alterations of exam criteria

Mr Somers, who is executive principal at Hartsdown Academy in Margate and Thanet Skills Studio, said: “This will allow a generation of children from Year 7 through to the end of Year 13 to have a clear educational journey with clear assessment structures and outcomes.”

Ofqual have warned teachers that there are likely to be more variations this year in the results and Mr Somers said: “I believe that comparisons with previous year’s results are void as there have been so many changes in the construction of GCSE exams and their assessment.

“Ofqual warned of a big drop in results due to the changes that the government initiated. Exam boards have been given the task of setting the grade criteria so it’s a lottery and it all depends on that final exam.

“I’m concerned at the lack of initiative now for schools to offer vocational courses. These have all been good for our students alongside more academic subjects and a real measure for us at Hartsdown is that most of our students go onto college, university or employment.

“I am concerned that once again we have another generation of students being used as guinea pigs for yet more changes in the exam system.”

Mr Somers, who is also chair of the Pupil Referral Unit management committee and a director on the Church of England Diocesan Coastal Academies Trust, predicts that the only true assessment of how well each school has done will be through the progress each child has made.

But he warned: “Even that will be sketchy due to different practice in each school when comparing each individual school against each other.”

In an open letter to teachers Ofqual Chief Regulator Glenys Stacey says: “The changes to GCSEs and A levels this summer have also changed the nature of the summer cohort. The move to a linear approach to GCSEs, with exams at the end of the course rather than in modules throughout, means that, for example, there are many more students entering GCSE mathematics this summer than last summer.

“In recent years, many of these students would have taken mathematics in January or March. And the fact that only the first attempt at a GCSE counts for performance tables will mean some schools will have changed their entry patterns still further.

“Schools that have made significant changes to their entry patterns are likely to see more variation in their results than others. This also means that comparisons between the national picture of results in 2013 and 2014 should be approached with caution, as you will not be comparing like with like.

“Collectively these changes in the student mix are likely to result in a little more variability than usual, school by school. When qualifications change we would expect individual school results to be more variable, because the changes will have different impacts in different schools and in different subjects.”

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