Litmus tests and grade boundaries

The debate on my comments about schools in my area continues; a number of people have contacted me in support of my voicing my opinion, which makes a change! But some continue to challenge me on my take on things, my right to speak and the latest is criticism in what capacity I speak.

I think I have already blogged on why I feel I have the right to speak something about being elected. So turning to in what capacity I speak, I speak to raise concerns on behalf of those who elected me and whom I represent, I may have the honour to serve the whole of Suffolk in the County Council Cabinet and speak for the County Council on Health and Adult Care but first and foremost I represent the community I am from, born and bred, and always have and will speak up on their behalf.

So let’s turn to substantive point about my take on things with regards MildenhallCollege.

Firstly it’s a matter of record that last year Mildenhall College pupils achieved 46% 5 A*-C CGSEs including Maths and English, this being the recognised litmus test across the land.

In an article in the Bury Free Press

A round up of local schools was reported on and MildenhallCollege was amongst the mix and its reported that the number of students gaining 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C was at 94% which was up 6% on the previous year and this is a very commendable and to be congratulated.

But the article goes on to report the Headteacher, Susan Byles as saying “At this point in time we are unable to confirm the figure for the percentage of students achieving 5A*-C grades including Maths and English. “We are investigating our own results and will appeal to the exam board if we feel any of the students have been unfairly graded.”

Yet at the same time other schools in the article have declared their figures and its fair to say all are down, some more than others.

Now there are many ways to measure success such as the results in different subjects but any analysis that excludes Maths and English is in my opinion not correct the 3rs reading, writing and arithmetic are the backbone of life and work. 5A*-C grades including Maths and English is the litmus test.

We know from the work we are undertaking through the ‘Raising the Bar’ initiative that employers tell us they are unhappy at school leavers who have GCSEs but don’t seems to have good Maths and English skills which are essential whatever you go on to do.

Equally I think we are all aware that Headteachers and schools are up in arms about the summer grade boundaries and indeed some Local Education Authorities (LEA) currently Lambeth LEA, Leeds LEA and Manchester LEA are launching a legal challenge to OFQUAL and their grade boundaries; and I am aware of an number of schools in Suffolk whoa re asking for students to retake exams and for appealing other results.

I think it’s fair to say a complete mess and clearly not of students or schools choosing at all.

I have been contacted by two parents who have spoken to me about their children who are either in the middle of taking the 1st years GCSE modules and feel that their child has been marked down and the impact this will have on their second year’s work and chances of achieving what they were planned and want to achieve; and a couple who children have not got the GCSEs C grades they needed to continue on to college and the devastating effect this was having.

Whilst we can debate the effects of a change of government and the impact this has had on the various Boards grade boundaries the one thing that does spring to my mind is how complete this has all become and how it needs to be simpler; this is meant to be about a general certificate of education a guide for colleges, university and employers as to the ability of students at a point in their lives, a measurable standard seems to have been lost in its complexity and as I have said I think any measurable standard must include Maths and English.

But for all that I cannot see why to date Mildenhall College has still have not published the result of this litmus test of the number of pupils achieving 5 A*-C CGSEs including Maths and English; others have albeit with what appears to be an justifiable caveat.

Under the way education is organised that is the school’s prerogative and SCC will honour their wishes and not publish the results, even if they and I as the local member who has a number of my residents attending the school, are aware of them.

Now of course we await a number of things:

We wait to see if the grade boundaries shift, although I suspect that they won’t, as I am told that generally the current remarking that is taking place is not shifting the grade boundaries.

We wait to see the results when published by the Department of Education because even if a school won’t they will publish all result later in the year as they normally do.

At a more detailed level we also wait to see what modules pupils took in the January and in the early summer, no one disputes the January grade boundaries.

With MildenhallCollege I hope I have been clear that I think the teachers and pupils work hard, I am a part of the team who are very aware and working on how to solve the ageing building issue which would be a challenge to any school

I am also very aware that SCC needs to do all it can to make sure we support our schools and that is why we have reorganised from three to two tier, that’s why I chaired a considerable body of public engagement in the shape of the new Forest Health Pyramid, that why I support the Free school in Brandon and have worked hard to make sure residents of the area have Free School Transport to it and have pressed hard and achieved considerable investment in my Division’s Primary Schools.

I do not single out a particular school or any school although its far to say my division only has one establish secondary school so I do sort of only focus on the College; I praise where praise is due but I am not here to ignore the concerns I and my residents have, I am here to champion those concerns.

Having said that when will these key results be published?

So when will my residents be able to see MildenhallCollege’s performance not just the figures they wish to release but the all important litmus test. Yes there is the current debacle of the grade boundaries; but that does not significantly alter the context of the schools performance; the context of past cohort’s achievements, and importantly the context of all the secondary schools in Suffolk; indeed perhaps it will be also worth considering the performance in light of the results of our other local secondary schools not in Suffolk but local to us here on the borders of Cambridgeshire and Norfolk such a Methwold, Thetford, Soham as well as Newmarket.

I think it would be far healthier to publish the day after the pupils get their results I think it would be far healthier for all schools to be required to so this. This might well change with the normal year’s appeals; this might change by a bigger margin this year for the reasons we all know but to my mind are we to wait until DE publish?

Then and only then will people will be able to form their own opinion.

As the Suffolk County Council member for Row Health I was elected to represent the people of my division and as such I am perfectly entitled to hold our schools, all our schools to account, I have and will continue to do so.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal anything I write is promoted by Lance Stanbury on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Unit 8, Swan Lane Business Park, Exning, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7FN

One Response to Litmus tests and grade boundaries

  1. Patrick Blake says:

    Cllr Noble, as a resident of this part of the world for over 30 years it saddens me greatly to see our schools squabbling and point scoring.
    The 2012 GCSE results published last week on the DfE website saw Suffolk’s catastrophic drop in performance continue since 2006/07. It’s a scandal on how the county which 6 years ago was around about average in England has rapidly dropped to the very bottom of the Performance Tables. People need to be honest on where there can be improvements in state education and not carry on lamenting about shifting grade boundaries. It’s not actually the case every Suffolk school went down this summer; Thomas Mills and locally County Upper both saw increases in grades and well done to them. My unbiased friends in education (and that’s not Messrs Cadwalladr and Geoff Barton of King Edwards) said it was the new January 2012 exams that were the problem not the summer’s. If some schools had looked at raising the attainment of their vulnerable C/D borderline kids maybe the boundary changes wouldn’t have affected them quite so much.
    Our three children attended the wonderful St Felix Middle in Newmarket however they went to Bury Upper Schools with their excellent results and I’m aware of many of our friends who send their more-able children to Bottisham, Soham, County Upper or King Edwards in preference to the Forest Heath Colleges which are both substantially undersubscribed. That’s not going to change in the near future either with the Brandon Free School to contend with as well. Raising the Bar – tripping over it methinks!!

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