Early Entry

Posted: September 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have a fairly even nature, as a rule.

Pretty stable.

I enjoy a certain equilibrium. I think. Mainly.

But I am appalled today. Appalled. And aghast. And, for the sake of an alliterative rule-of-three, positively agog.

At Michael Gove.

It was bad enough that, on the final week of the Summer holiday, he removed Speaking and Listening from the components of the GCSE. But now he has essentially outlawed early entry, as of 29th September 2013.

Well, not outlawed but declared that early entries will be the result which counts towards performance tables, even if a student obtains a higher grade later. I think that the student can still benefit from and cite the higher grade.

So, let us consider two hypothetical schools perhaps only a few hundred yards apart. One entered its current Year 11s ending their KS4 studies in June 2014 for iGCSE English First Language in May 2013 at the end of Year 10. Those students who obtained a D in May 2013 can resit in November 2013 or in May 2014 and the higher grade will “count” because

For those who have already completed a GCSE, IGCSE or Level 1/Level 2 certificate (summer 2013 or previously), the performance tables will still record their best result from either their previous attempt or from the next time they sit a qualification from the GCSE family.

The second school, however, may have elected not to enter in May 2013 because of concerns that their students may not have had the maturity to do justice to themselves and, now, they will be stuck with the November result even if it is a D which is converted to a C in May 2014 because

Those who have not yet taken a qualification from the GCSE family will have their first GCSE, IGCSE or Level 1/Level 2 certificate taken after 29 September 2013 count in performance tables.

Now, I’m sorry but if you are Michael Gove and if you believe that early entry is so invidious and damaging that you have to disrupt an exam course after it’s commenced, why accept the very early entry but limit the early entry. That cannot be a fair result!

And, look at the timing! It I’d four days before schools need to finalise entries for November exams. Four days! Within four days, every school that is intending to use the November entry will need to reconsider, re-evaluate and refine its decision. Will you enter your – in PiXL speak – D1s in the hope of converting them to Cs when there’s a reasonable chance of the school being stuck with a D if the child fails to convert it? Will you simply abandon November entries, even if the process is deemed to be of benefit to those children for May as a consolidation of their skills and practice?

And is not that invidious? Schools’ interests in terms of performance tables may well be at odds with students’ interests. Because, Mr Gove, teachers do not play the system. We do not leap onto bandwagons. We do not manipulate figures and results. We just don’t.

We select routes that suit our students.

If we enter students in November, it is because we feel they benefit. They may not get a C – or any other grade – but they would benefit: discipline, organisation, dealing with pressure, time management, deadlines. These are skills which simply cannot be replicated fully in internal mock situations. We can come close but it will never be the same.

And let’s consider my own situation. Since July, I had four days booked into the calendar. Two intensive focused coursework days taking kids off-timetable (with the consequent disruption which that necessitates) followed by two days of Speaking and Listening Appointments. That was 26th. 27th. 30th September and 1st October. That takes planning. Intense planning. We sweated blood. And get an announcement like this.

As I started this post, I am appalled!

I am appalled at the timing, so close to the exam and entry deadline and in the midst of the prime coursework completion time.

I am appalled that I found out last night via Twitter rumours and BBC news. Where was the formal announcement? Even the exam boards – as of midday – knew nothing other than rumour.

I am appalled that this has been introduced for a year group already thirteen months into their Key Stage 4 studies.

I am appalled at the implication that schools put their league table position above the interests of their students.

I am appalled that there has been no consultation.

I am appalled that I now have no confidence that a similar announcement won’t be made about dual entry.

I am just appalled.

The link to the DfE announcement is here.


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