Speaking ahead of the release of this year’s GCSE results, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Congratulations to all students receiving their GCSE grades - they should be proud of what they have achieved in such challenging circumstances. School and college staff have gone above and beyond in order to make the system fair and robust this year.
“This different approach to assessment means it is likely we will see higher results overall this year. This is a natural consequence of the system that the government instructed schools to implement.
“Grades have been arrived at in a completely unique way, so it would not be sensible to compare this year’s results with any other, and any talk of ‘grade inflation’ is unhelpful to students. This year’s results are based on a portfolio of evidence completed by students which has been marked, moderated and quality assured by teachers, school leaders and exam boards.
“In a normal year, we would see the process of comparable outcomes ranking students from top to bottom, meaning that broadly the same proportions of students received each grade. This year students have been able to show what they know, understand and can do, without the high pressure snapshot moment of an exam, where some students will always underperform.
“Using criteria-based grade descriptors this year has meant that if a student’s evidence demonstrates they have achieved what is required of a grade, then that is the grade they are awarded. This is particularly important in English and maths, where a grade three at GCSE leads to a potentially demoralising spiral of resits.
“The government has an opportunity to take a fresh look at the best ways to assess students’ achievements and to consider whether the changes to GCSEs, where, for most subjects, everything is determined by a packed programme of terminal exams is right and fair.”
First published 12 August 2021