GCSE English students have been told their hard work will now count for nothing - after an ‘extraordinary’ decision by the exam regulator Ofqual.
Pupils learned this week that their speaking and listening assessments will no longer contribute 20 per cent to their final grade.
But, unprecedentedly, this change has come into effect half-way through the two-year course – so students who thought they had already achieved an A* grade on this component have been told their result no longer counts.
The change is part of major GCSE reforms being driven through by UK Education Secretary Michael Gove and will add to pressure on the island to make a break with the English education system.
Jack Maylin, aged 15, a year 11 student at Castle Rushen High School, said: ‘It was a lot of hard work all for nothing and lots of people are incredibly annoyed. It definitely wasn’t the best timing.’
Richard Ashcroft, whose daughter Alannah is a year 11 student at the same school, called on Education Minister Tim Crookall MHK to lobby Ofqual to get the grades reinstated.
He said: ‘The marked work going towards Alannah’s grade has been withdrawn summarily. We’re gutted for her - three As vapourised without referral! She is shy of speaking publicly so it was a real effort to achieve her grades.’
Castle Rushen High School’s head teacher Andrew Cole described the changes as ‘unprecedented’. He said: ‘Never before has the assessment basis for a GCSE examination been changed when students are part way through their programme of study.
‘The careful thought, time, resources and energy invested in planning effective programmes are all called into question.
‘The assurance that all students are equally affected is of no help and we are very concerned about the best ways to support students through this complete change in direction.’
CRHS team leader for English Nicola Kennedy added: ‘We have invested 20 per cent of the teaching time for Year 10 students working on a component of the course which they have decided to remove, mid-course!
‘We will now have to explain to students and parents that much of their hard work will not contribute to their GCSE grade in English.’
Ofqual, whose decision came despite a consultation which found the overwhelming majority strongly disagreed with the proposals, said the move was being made to protect qualification standards in the wake of last year’s grade inflation row.
Chief regulator Glenys Stacey said: ‘We know this will be unpopular with many teachers, and will affect students who have already completed their first year of studies, but we think it right to make these changes and to act as quickly as possible because the current arrangements result in unfairness.’
The island’s co-ordinating adviser 11-19 education Paul Craine said there was no evidence here of any inconsistency or unfairness in the marking of speaking and listening assessments. But he said it was unlikely the decision would be reversed.
He said: ‘This is an extraordinary situation and we fully understand why some GCSE pupils feel they have been treated unfairly. We have no control or influence at all over that decision.
‘What has been remarkable, and most surprising, about [this] decision is that, for pupils in Year 11, it has come into effect halfway through the two year course.’
He said education chiefs were ‘watching very closely’ at what happens in Wales and Northern Ireland, where proposals not yet finalised may see GCSE controlled assessments retained, and in Scotland, where the education system is significantly different.
Mr Craine said: ‘We can either choose to follow the radical changes being introduced in England or we can elect to make the radical decision to break with the English education system. The decision will inevitably be a political one. There are many factors to consider. Until the proposals [in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland] become clear, all we can do is gather information so that we know what the alternatives can offer.’
Andrew Shipley, Isle of Man branch secretary of the teaching union ATL, said policy had been made ‘on the hoof’.
He said: ‘It’s disappointing. ATL has a concern that Ofqual is focused on examinations and doesn’t recognise the value of work such as speaking and listening which has to be assessed differently. It penalises those who struggle with written communication but are more than capable of putting their thoughts and ideas across verbally.’