Basingstoke head fears teachers will quit over GCSE English exam fiasco

A BASINGSTOKE headteacher believes despairing teachers will quit the profession if the GCSE English fiasco is not sorted out.

Betty Elkins, head at Cranbourne Business and Enterprise College , said morale is low among teachers after students expected to gain a grade C were instead awarded a D. It was reported last week that leaked letters showed exam watchdog Ofqual ordered exam board Edexcel to make changes to its grade boundaries before this year's English GCSE was marked.

Mrs Elkins said: “It's all been dealt with appallingly. It's wrong that the exam boards can suddenly, and without warning, change grade boundaries after the exams have been taken.

“It's massively affected morale. Teachers have slogged their guts out and promised the kids that they will do well, and if you put the kids down, you put the teachers down too.

“The teachers feel completely demotivated. If justice isn't done here by the Government, we will see people leaving the profession.

“Quite frankly I don't understand how it got into this mess but something has to be done to address the situation. I have a significant number of students who have a grade D who should have a grade C and something needs to be done.”

Mrs Elkins said students at some schools in Basingstoke are worse affected than others, depending when they sat the exam. Some schools allowed students to sit the paper early in January - before the grading boundaries were changed. But the policy at Cranbourne, in Wessex Close, is to give students the maximum time to prepare, so they sat English in June.

Mrs Elkins said: “Our students are disadvantaged because of this. We can't believe that the people who have the power to do something about this are so prepared to just wash their hands of it.”

The headteacher said Basingstoke's Queen Mary's College and Basingstoke College of Technology had allowed students with a D in English to start their A-level courses. She added: “The colleges recognised the injustice that has been done. But if it doesn't get sorted, the students will have to retake their English language to get a C.”

Hampshire County Council 's education chief Councillor Roy Perry has backed a call by the Association of Directors of Children's Services for an independent inquiry, “for the sake of fairness to the children concerned and for the sake of the credibility of the system”.

Mrs Elkins agreed, adding: “He's right. The whole thing goes far beyond threatening the life chances of young people. That's the most important thing, but someone needs to understand the plight of the English teachers in all this as well.”

Julie Rose , principal of Everest Community Academy , in Popley, said her school's English results were 34 per cent A* to C - 10 per cent lower than expected. She said papers in which students gained a D, but would have been awarded a C had they sat the exam in January, were returned for remarking, but Edexcel responded to say the grades would not be altered. She added: “It's so unfair for those children who did put the work in.”

In Wales, students could have their grades raised as a result of a regrading, leaving those in England with lower results for the same standard of work. Education Secretary Michael Gove said the regrading, ordered by his counterpart in the Welsh Assembly, will weaken the value of GCSEs from Wales.

But he, in turn, has been accused by critics of burying his head in the sand by refusing to accept the evidence of the grading problem. 

* Do you have a view on this issue? Have your say by commenting below, email editor @basingstoke Gazette .co.uk, or write, in no more than 250 words, to The Letters Editor, The Gazette, Pelton Road, Basingstoke, RG21 6YD.

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