The politicisation of the assessment process

From stewartb

On schools and specifically on the 2021 assessment of national qualifications. I note that BBC Scotland is taking full advantage of the politicisation of the assessment process by opposition parties in Holyrood.

The appeals procedure seems now to be the main target of criticism. At FMQs on 3 June an ‘outraged’ Douglas Ross asked: “Will the First Minister do the right thing, concede that she has got this badly wrong and guarantee that no pupil who appeals will be downgraded? No matter how rare she says that is, it will be a risk for young people if they appeal.”

We can’t expect decency or consistency in politics from this Tory. We know we can’t expect ‘perspective’ on important issues to be provided by BBC Scotland. And we know we can’t expect editorial decisions by the BBC in Scotland on such issues to be afforded similar content, tone or prominence to those made by BBC editors elsewhere. But just in case there is someone visiting btl here for the first time, it’s always worth giving another illustration to justify such assertions!

The Westminster Tory government’s approved guidance on the conduct of the 2021 school exams in England is published here:

Joint Council for Qualifications (2021) JCQ Guidance on the determination of grades for A/AS Levels and GCSEs for Summer 2021: processes to be adopted by exam centres and support available from awarding organisations. (Updated 19 April 2021)

On expected number of appeals it states: “Students who consider that an error has been made in determining their grade will have a right to appeal. We expect that there will be relatively few errors this year.”

And crucially: “Stage 2: appeal to the awarding organisation ….. The (exam) CENTRE WILL NEED TO ENSURE THE STUDENT IS AWARE THAT THEIR GRADE COULD GO DOWN, UP or stay the same.” (my emphasis) upon appeal.

WJEC is Wales’ largest awarding body for GCSEs, AS and A Levels approved by Qualifications Wales, the Welsh government agency. Its guide for pupils in the 2021 assessment process, including on appeals, is given here:

It states that if dissatisfied following a Stage 1 exam centre review of a challenged grade, the pupil can appeal to WJEC (at Stage 2). If the WJEC assessment finds that an ‘error’ has been made at Stage 1 in awarding the grade, it explains that when corrected it “might result in your grade GOING UP, DOWN, or remaining the same.”

A quick search of BBC News online failed to find aggregation and amplification of political outrage over this matter in England or Wales – unless you know differently? I lost the will to check out the procedure being used in NI. But perish the thought – could we be seeing outraged OPPOSITION to a ‘four nation approach’ being given favourable profile by BBC Scotland?

As a final thought, I find the principle of a substantive grading error found during a process of re-assessment being simply ignored – but only when the error has led to an undeservedly higher grade – problematic. Yes there may be some who will shun the appeals process rather than risk down-grading. However, on the other hand, in a competitive market e.g. for limited higher education places, might retaining an undeservedly higher grade convey unfair advantage over those that truly merit the grade they have been awarded?

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