Dear Year 12, 13 and families
I am contacting you once again, to let you and your families know the latest from Bro Edern. I’m sure that you have seen many reports in the press and in the media about the results, therefore I am keen to update you from the school’s perspective.
Our Sixth Form results’ day was a bittersweet experience this year. On the one hand, there were many successes, and everyone who wanted to go to university this year has a place, most at the first choice of university. This is definitely a cause for celebration, as well as a relief for us all. On the other hand, over 50% of individual subject grades in year 13 and over 30% in year 12 were lowered by the national algorithms. I am not prepared to let this go, because this is extremely unfair and has a direct impact on Bro Edern pupils.
Because of this, on Friday 14 August, I wrote the letter below to Ian Morgan, Chief Executive of WJEC.
In addition, I sent a copy to the following:
- Qualifications Wales
- Jenny Rathbone – Senedd Member for Cardiff Central, the school’s constituency, and the constituency of half our pupils
- Vaughan Gething – Senedd Member for Cardiff South and Penarth, the constituency of half our pupils
- ASCL – The Headteachers’ Union
- Nick Batchelar – Cardiff’s Director of Education
- Mike Tate – Cardiff’s Assistant Director of Education
- Geraint Lewis – Senior Challenge Adviser for Cardiff, and the school’s Challenge Adviser
In order to hide the identity of some of the pupils concerned, I have deleted their subjects in this blog version of my letter.
I would like to express my frustration and disappointment with the announcement of this year’s A and AS Level results. I fully understand that we are at a very different situation to normal and that Qualifications Wales and WJEC have had to create an algorithm system in order to produce results, which is essentially going to mean that some pupils lose out when their results are produced. However, there is a clear feeling of unfairness created by this year’s results which will be to the detriment of our students for the rest of their lives. After all, it was a bunch of nervous individuals receiving their results today and not a series of mathematical models.
Teachers have spent a very long time producing the centre assessed grades, as we were asked to do, and then putting the pupils in rank order. As required, external exam results, coursework, work completed in the classroom, internal exam results, and a number of other factors were taken into account when determining grades. However the results as published appear to pay very little attention to teacher input. Furthermore, there is the feeling when looking at our results as a school, that there is no sense in the results, or any consideration given to the unique situation of particular schools.
Every school has its own story, and I know it is impossible to look at everyone’s, but when a school does not have three years of results to take into account, as is true in our case, is this not a reason to look in more detail at the results of that school, and really consider the extent to which the algorithm you use is fit for purpose? We are a school with only one year of A Level and Level 3 results, with huge differences between last year’s cohort and this year’s cohort. It is very unfair to award pupils grades this year based on one year of results only. Bro Edern’s total Level 3 A* to C 2020 grades are 3% lower than the 2019 A*-C total grades, which were our first Level 3 results. However, in 2018 the percentage of pupils achieving level 2+ was 10% higher than the previous year’s total of level 2+, which these two years correspond to. In small cohorts such as the first years at Bro Edern there can be huge differences between two years as highlighted here in their GCSE results. Clearly, therefore, we would expect an increase, not a drop, in the Level 3 2020 results compared to the 2019 results, although we recognise and celebrate the significant increase in the number of A*-A grades this year.
The fact that 50% of our centre assessed level 3 grades were reduced, some by as many as three grades, raises big questions about the process this year. It gives the impression, rightly or wrongly, of a process, as happened in Scotland, that does not look at the individual and instead favours traditional academic schools. A third of our pupils come from the 20% most deprived areas in Wales, and these results strongly suggest that our pupils are at a considerable disadvantage. There is no evidence of looking at the individual in these results to ensure that they are rational.
I am pleased that the Education Minister has announced that pupils will receive a grade equivalent to their AS grade, as this means that some of our pupils will receive a higher grade than they were given within the process this year. That in itself raises further questions about the process. We know that pupils over the years have significantly improved their AS results in year 13, and this was evident in our cohort this year with a significant number registered to resit AS modules in year 13. There are a variety of reasons why pupils do not do so well in some years, including internal factors such as maternity leave affecting the standard of teaching, or the effort in year 12 was not as it should have been. It would be interesting to know how much attention was paid to the fact that pupils were going to be resitting some Year 12 modules when their final grades were determined.
The Minister said that ‘Students in Wales, and prospective employers and universities across the UK, can be assured that their A Level grades reflect their work and externally assessed exams.’ However, it is clear that these results do not reflect the extra work completed by the pupils during year 13 and that they have been penalised for underachieving in year 12, although teachers acknowledged the progress made when setting the centre assessed grade. It was heartbreaking to see students in tears this morning as they received a grade which was the same as their AS grade, having worked so hard and producing work of a high standard throughout year 13.
The situation in year 12 is also extremely variable, with the AS results of the last two years clearly affecting this year’s results. Again, we have no results for three years to be able to compare against. Is this the explanation why three pupils who achieved an A* at GCSE received a grade of B and two Cs in Subject1 this year? What’s more, there are huge discrepancies across the cohort and it is clear again that no form of consideration had been given to the individual pupil, e.g.
- A pupil receiving a result of an A grade in Subject1, B in Subject2 but an U grade in Subject3, although the centre assessed grade given was a ‘C’.
- A pupil receiving centre assessed grades of a ‘C’ in Subject1, Subject2 and Subject3, and receiving grades of a C and two U’s.
- A pupil receiving an A grade in Subject1, but an U in Subject2, with a centre assessed grade of a C.
- A pupil receiving a B grade in Subject1, the same as the centre assessed grade, and then an U grade in Subject2 which is two grades lower than the centre assessed grade.
The moderation process seems to have taken into account the rank order of the pupils in the groups, but without considering that the number 10 pupil in one class may be of the same standard as the number 1 pupil in another class, as this depends completely on the nature and academic ability of the pupils. Having said this, one pupil, ranked 8th, achieved a U grade in Subject1 (after the centre had assessed a grade C) while pupil number 9 received an E grade.
Our Head of Art is a WJEC A Level principal examiner for art and design, with years of experience. She knows exactly what the standard of ‘C’ is in art and photography, and yet two of her grades have been reduced from ‘C’ to ‘U’.
We are in the process of submitting a large number of appeals to this year’s results and will look carefully at the outcome of those appeals before deciding on our next steps. As a school we communicated with parents, and said that there was a need to distinguish between frustration, disappointment and unfairness. Unfortunately there is a great sense of unfairness to the pupils of the school at present and I trust that this year’s outcomes will be looked at carefully so that all stakeholders in the education system in Wales have confidence in those outcomes.
Headteacher: Ysgol Bro Edern