ASCL launches inquiry into GCSE results as 57% fail to get ‘strong’ pass

Geoff Barton.

The Association of Schools and Colleges has launched an inquiry into GCSE results that the union claims leave pupils “deflated and uncertain”.

GCSE performance statistics published today showed that 57 per cent of pupils in state-funded schools failed to achieve the government’s new ‘strong pass’ measure in English and maths – a grade 5.

The union stated the government no longer includes the number of pupils who failed to achieve a ‘standard pass’ of a grade 4 – the equivalent of a C – in its headline measures.

Government figures show that 63.9 per cent of pupils in state-funded schools achieved at least a grade 4.

ASCL said that over a third of pupils failing to hit this standard means society must “surely question a system which sends out such a negative message to so many young people”.

The union has now launched a commission of inquiry, which will initially focus on English, to look at how “we might better reflect the achievements of all our young people”.

The commission is made up largely of practising English teachers and school and college leaders, and is chaired by educationist and writer Roy Blatchford.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said while the union understands why the government is making a distinction between grade 5 as a measure of school performance, they fear it is an “extremely confusing message for young people, their parents and employers”.

“The result is that many young people will have felt deflated and uncertain after taking this summer’s exams despite having worked their hardest.

“Those who did not achieve a Grade 4 also face the grind of compulsory resits.”

Barton added the public does not realise that, because of the comparable outcomes measure, about one third of pupils will fail to achieve at least a grade 4.

“This system has the virtue of ensuring that pupils don’t lose out from one year to the next by changes in exams, but it ensures we will always have a forgotten third.

“We have to do better for these young people. It cannot be right that we have a system which leaves so many students feeling crushed rather than proud. We have to find a way of better recognising their abilities.”

The commission has held an initial meeting and will submit a final report in 2019, which will be discussed with the department and the exams regulator Ofqual.

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