Exam board roulette ...

A long time ago in a life long since gone, I used to interview prospective full time students for different further education courses I managed. Apart from the typical aspirational discussions - there was always a slot to look at predicted or actual grades acquired.

You would get some flim flam from some candidates, trying to big up their prospects - others were realistic about the grades they have and their desire to progress. You would see a typical range of results - typical awarding bodies and nothing unusual.

Winding the clock forward - 7.5 years and a conversation with some friends in the current shambles known as further education. A new, interesting and disturbing picture emerges from a local school culture that is playing exam board roulette.

This is how the game is played.
  • Student X is entered early for English in Exam Board A ... they get grade C.
  • Student X is entered for English in Exam Board B ... they get grade B. Bonus, game on, result for school and youngster on both occasions.
  • Student Y, is entered early for English In Exam Board A ... they get grade D.
  • Student Y, is entered still early for English In Exam Board B ... they get grade D.
  • Student Y, is entered for English In Exam Board C ... they get grade C. The schools gambling has paid off as they now have a result for their league tables.
  • Student Z, is entered early for English In Exam Board A ... they get grade D.
  • Student Y, is entered still early for English In Exam Board B ... they get grade C.
  • Student Y, is entered for English In Exam Board C ... they get grade D. Gamble pays off, as top trump from exam board B is played.
There are students who get examination fatigue and many who never get offered a multi hit opportunity. As well as those who cannot gain C for many valid reasons.

You create a culture where grades are everything and quality is defined by two external metrics - involve examination bodies who sell exam sittings and you have an interesting combination. While everyone strives to set standards and maintain standards there is a collective, unwitting race to the bottom taking place.


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