Schools warned to expect drop in rate of English literature top grades

Schools can expect a lower proportion of their pupils to get top grades in their English Literature GCSE this summer, Ofqual has warned.

Cath Jadhav, associate director of standards and comparability at Ofqual, said more pupils in lower ability sets were likely to have been entered for the English Literature GCSE this year, so they are counted in Progress 8 measures.

As a result, schools could expect a larger proportion of pupils than usual to get lower grades in that subject, she told delegates at an event by the exams watchdog this afternoon.

A previous investigation by Schools Week revealed that the only school-led factor that caused volatility in results linked to swings in GCSE pass rates was moving large number of pupils into different exams each year.

Progress 8 brings in lower-ability pupils

Jadhav, speaking at the Oqual symposium today, said: “If, as we believe, the new Progress 8 measure is encouraging schools to enter most if not all of their pupils to English Literature, then this is also likely to have an impact on results.

“It’s too early to have seen any awarding data, but we think it’s likely that the increase in entry numbers means that overall the cohort is weaker.

“This is likely to mean that the percentage of pupils achieving higher grades as a percentage of the total, will be lower.”

Schools might see more variation in results

She added that pupils who got a C last year should still get a 4 this year, but “there are more pupils this year, and, crucially, more lower ability pupils”.

She said that while national results will be “relatively stable”, the results of individual schools and colleges “might see more variation … compared to previous years”.

This is also the first year schools have sat the new reformed GCSEs, and Sally Collier, chief regulator at Ofqual, urged bodies including Ofsted and regional schools commissioners to avoid “knee jerk” reactions to any large falls in results.

Schools shouldn’t be having a knee-jerk reaction to results

Speaking to Schools Week, Collier said the English literature changes meant that whereas a teacher might have seen half their cohort achieve an A* in English Literature last year, only a “tiny proportion” might get the top grade in the subject this year, “because you’ve put in more pupils, and more are lower-ability pupils”.

Pupils have always been required to sit an English Language GCSE, but lower ability pupils have frequently not been entered into the English Literature GCSE as well – until the introduction of Progress 8 – said Collier.

Languages grade boundary change confirmed

The exams watchdog also confirmed it was telling exam boards to hand out A grades to one per cent more pupils in French, German and Spanish A-levels this summer.

The slight lowering of the grade boundary comes after a review by Ofqual of the effects of native speakers of foreign languages on unfair grading at A-level.

“It’s likely that will have a knock-on effect for A*s as well,” said Dr Michelle Meadows, executive director for strategy risk and research at Ofqual.

The decision to allow one per cent more pupils to get an A grade was taken in the last “few weeks”, she confirmed.

Exam boards could challenge the advice, and argue for a higher proportion, such as two per cent, to be given As, once they had assessed the quality of exam scripts, said Meadows.

Adjustment for native speakers at GCSE are not planned while the GCSEs undergo significant reform, but “we are listening” to calls for the same adjustment to be made for those exams in the future too, she added.


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