Time to come up with a different plan perhaps?
With July now upon us we are almost (but not quite) at the end of the Centre or Teacher Assessed Grade process. I say not quite because we are still working with schools in the Far East who had a special extended deadline due to their political situation and this brought further challenges to them beyond Covid-19.
I wrote recently for Independent School Management Plus that I had my worries about the fairness of the CAG or TAG methodology this year and my concerns were further shared in The Daily Telegraph last weekend (4th July). At MMP we worked with a variety of processes at a large number of schools and centres. No two approaches were quite the same – no surprises there, guidance differed from one board to another (released at different times). No two schools had followed quite the same path to GCSE or A Level and all had different levels of negatively impacted learning. In normal years schools are absolutely entitled to work through each course in whatever order they so choose but all know there is a point at which the demands of the specification have to be completed and students need to be exam ready. Not so this year. The difference in progress meant that some students were tested on more content, and earlier or later in the calendar (by several months) than others, and indeed some in much greater depth than others. Unfortunately grades will not recognise any discrepancy in approach so should an A* for a child who has completed part of the course be considered superior to a Grade B from a student who has been tested on the sum total of its parts? I think not, but that is 2021 and others would argue there was no other solution.
Personally, I believe the answer would have been exams as normal, further supported by each school creating an ‘extenuating circumstances’ explanation made available to all future employers or higher education establishments, and in it would be a breakdown of impact, lost learning hours etc both personally and collectively to support any grade, good or bad. Instead we have a cohort of results which in spite of ‘grade descriptors’ will be collectively confusing and meaningless where some children have performed exceedingly well for their grade 5 GCSE pass and others have done the barest of minimums for their grade 7 in the same subject.
I believe that there is a need for a catch-up programme but I do understand teachers and schools work hard and need a break. My fear over the suggestion that we should chip into and remove content in order to level the field is that once removed there will be a lobby never to put it back and we thus, remove some of the invaluable – and enjoyable – skills and knowledge we teach our children. If we once deemed certain topics were necessary to reach the required level in Chemistry, Maths or English Literature, it is a brave move to declare that content should be sacrificed to honour the pressing need to wave students through and give them a grade on a much reduced learning experience and simply pass the problem uphill to higher education. Nobody really gains and nobody really knows who didn’t know what. 2021 results will not individually differentiate between a student who knew the full content of Chemistry A Level and a fellow student who knew just half.
So my message is that if you need to catch up, try to put some time aside each day to do just that. One hour will do. Don’t forget to have a good rest and a break from studying but think of your learning (or your child’s learning) as an investment in your future rather than just a process to pass an exam. There is so much more to it than that and one day, when the world returns to normal, you will be well informed and well equipped to go ahead and shine.
As home-educators we prize the enjoyment of learning and we are removed from some of the negative influences conventional education can bring. Over the past 18 months I have been privileged to work with some home-educating families who have put huge effort into obtaining predicted grades. I am proud of you all and I wish you all the very best of luck for your results in August. Conversely, I was disappointed to encounter parents who pushed aggressively for a grade in full knowledge that their child had barely scraped the surface of the specification; seizing an opportunist moment for an easy win. This upset several centres who had willingly opened their door to home-educators but will no doubt think twice in future.
I pray that 2022 returns to normal but I said that last year and it didn’t. If we are faced with the same plight in 2022 please get in touch. We have worked very closely with many excellent exam centres who will do their best to see that you are able to obtain the predicted grade you deserve. Others have understandably decided that the process was too challenging and will only accept private candidates if conventional assessments return. Whatever happens, plan to be assessed. No exams will not mean no assessments and one of the most heartbreaking problems this year was numerous children who had ‘given up’ because they wrongly thought they wouldn’t face any sort of assessment. You will. Probably not exactly how you had imagined but it is important to keep preparing as you normally would.
On a further note, If you would like to take advantage of our University Mentoring Service please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. For students who are applying to Oxbridge or for any Medicine related course your deadline is the 15th October. It may seem like way in the future but time passes quickly and the process of going through UCAS as a home-educated student can be more challenging than for a conventionally educated student. So plan ahead. Our Mentoring Service enables you to build a relationship with our specialist mentor who will provide a reference and predicted grades but this cannot be a last minute thing. The service includes a set of assessments and assistance with many of the other obligations involved in applying to university. I developed the concept after my eldest home-educated son applied to Cambridge (successfully) in 2021 and I am delighted to say we have received much interest from home-educators across the globe. Please contact us on email@example.com for further information.
Finally, enjoy your summer. If you have exams in October or November we will be available to help you. Our focus is now on many of our other dimensions including the creation of learning materials for tutor groups and a host of other tasks that will keep our team of over 250 examiners busy.
Wishing you all the best, Emma White, Founder and Managing Director.
Predicted grades in 2022. Let’s hope not.
Time to come up with a different plan perhaps?