Where do we go from here?

The government’s decision to opt for predicted grades in lieu of exams as a solution to the current Coronavirus crisis is an obvious one. There were few viable options, at least options that would offer a smooth and easy solution. From repeating a year to delaying this summer’s exams, all were deemed to come at a price, and an inconvenience. But the writing isn’t yet on the wall and what may seem like the quick and easy solution will no doubt cause problems further down the long road ahead.

Predicting grades is never an exacting science. I have already heard of teachers receiving emails from angst ridden parents proclaiming that their offspring didn’t really do their best in the mocks, and with that in mind, perhaps Sir could show a little mercy?  It won’t be clear cut. Some schools mark harshly in mocks, others with encouraging leniency to spur little Johnny into latent action. Even more worrying is the issue of some schools really not understanding how to mark at all, how to interpret the exam objectives – from what we see at Mark My Papers some are up to 20% out when compared with examiner moderation. For those pupils who are subject to any of these scenarios they may find themselves the winner or loser, of inaccurate marking.  How can that be acceptable?

Take for example a renowned public school who failed to achieve a single D1 in one particular subject in last year’s Pre U exams. If the school’s track record is to be taken into consideration, will this hiccup be swept aside or will it come back to haunt the school? Will this year’s cohort be blighted by last year’s failings? Where Oxbridge places are at stake there will be a huge price to pay. And where school fees have been paid, won’t parents feel they should have some clout? The road ahead is riven with potholes and what perhaps seemed like a quick fix last week will create a generation of school leavers known as the class of 2020, the kids who made it on the back of nothing. As I write I’m recalling the 1993 Grand National with the false start.

There’s another problem too: Home Educated children. For many the mention of home educated children conjures up non triers and misfits, those who couldn’t face the reality of school.  I know because I am a home educating mother and I’ve heard the arguments, had the glances – but the truth is far different. Ask any Mark My Papers examiner and they will tell you that the home educated students are the real stars of the show. Our performances are collectively excellent, our diligence and engagement exemplary and each year we achieve the best results. Fact. Those examiners who extend a helping hand to the home educated community are cheered by the fact that their feedback is taken on board and acted upon. But…they are the real losers in the government’s new substitute scenario. Many home educated children are self or parent educated. – they don’t have recourse to tutors. Now they face the predicament of making the exam board believe in their efforts without the benefit of an exam to prove their worth.

It could be tricky. Mark My Papers are working hard with the home education community, not only to mark and assess each individual piece of work but to give provenance to the practice of home education. Whilst the media have preferred to focus on the issue of child welfare and disappearing children, they brush aside the achievements of home educated students who win places at top universities and go on to brilliant careers. The media simply aren’t interested in good news. I fear the effect their disinterest in our success and obsession with the more scandalous stories they favour may have on influencers. One hopes that such a view doesn’t permeate the minds of opinion formers within the education sector and decision makers at the exam boards and within government.

So interesting times ahead. Let us hope that the home education community are able to prove their worth and have a fair hearing when it comes to predicted grades. Whatever it takes, Mark My Papers will be putting up a fight so that these students are treated equally and fairly and take their rightful place in society as ‘home edders’ have done for millennia; from Alexander the Great to Charles Dickens, Robert Frost, Beatrix Potter, Alexander Graham Bell, The Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison; the list goes on and will include the names of our childrens’ generation all in good time. Nothing can dull the light of the passion for learning our children possess.

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