Education International
Education International

U.K.: Education unions react to GCSE results

published 13 September 2012 updated 20 September 2012

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), the National Union of Teachers (NUT), and the University and College Union (UCU), three EI’s national affiliates, have commented on the publication of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) results. The GCSE is an academic qualification awarded in a specified subject, generally taken in a number of subjects by students aged 14–16 in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

NASUWT: Government undermines national public education system

“Congratulations must go out today to all the young people and teachers who have worked hard to achieve exam success,” saidNASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates.

“The results show a slight percentage drop in the A*-C pass rate. The Government may seek to claim that these changes are as a result of it 'toughening up ' on examinations because they were 'too easy' in the past. This is untrue, as the evidence from the exam boards and exam regulator shows.”

She drew the attention to the fact that the Government should consider that it is unlikely to be long before there is clear evidence that its policies are affecting educational outcomes:

“The denigration of state schools, the drive for a narrow elitist curriculum, the removal of essential support for families, the erosion of educational entitlements for children and young people and the relentless attacks on teachers and the teaching profession will take their toll, undermining over a decade of year-on-year improvement in the achievements of young people and schools.”

Keates went on to say that “with figures released yesterday showing an increase in the number of 16 to 18 year-olds not in education, work or training, the focus must be on ensuring that the achievements made today are not allowed to go to waste and that all young people can leave school provided with the opportunities to further their skills.”

“Young people receiving their GCSE results today are facing an uncertain future and investment in jobs and skills must be the top priority,” she underlined.

NUT: brutal change of grading system is a scandal

The NUT deplored that exam boards changed grade boundaries between January and June so that many candidates who would have got a C in January got a D in June. The education union said this has affected about 10,000 students and is truly a scandal. The exam boards gave no notice to schools or students of this change of policy. Many English teachers rang the NUT to complain about the effects on their students and suspicious of political influence having led to this scandal.

The NUT is supporting demands for a regrading (not a re-marking) of the latest English GCSE papers and for an independent inquiry into how this has come about.

NUT General Secretary Christine Blower wrote to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, about the GCSE results.

“The NUT, and its members, shares the serious concerns of the NAHT [National Association of Head Teachers] and ASCL [Association of School and College Leaders] about the circumstances surrounding this year’s GCSE results especially in English,” she said. “For exam boards to change the grade boundaries in such a way that many pupils who would have gained a C grade in January attained a D in June - for exactly the same work - is entirely unacceptable and exceptionally unfair.”

“I am pleased that Ofqual [Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation] is issuing an interim report tomorrow,” her letter reads. “I believe, however, that such is the level of concern amongst teachers, school leaders, parents and students that only a fully independent review, plus the re-grading, not remarking, of this summer’s exams will suffice.”

Blower added: “As you know there is considerable speculation that this state of affairs has come about through political interference. The NUT will be seeking a full explanation from Awarding Bodies as to how the C/D borderline was set this year, particularly in the English examination papers. It is essential that grade boundaries should not be susceptible to politically motivated interference by Ofqual or by your department.”

She further condemned the fact that hundreds of thousands of students and their teachers will be returning to school with faith in the examination system having been seriously damaged. She therefore urged Gove to take quick and decisive action to restore confidence in the system.

UCU: Rescued access to higher education leads to national economic danger

UCU also warned that the government's decision to 'ration' access to higher education would endanger economic growth and leave thousands with an uncertain future.

The education union said that while it was happy for those who gained admission, the coalition's decision to cut 15,000 university places and hike up tuition fees would make the country less competitive and narrow young people's options at a time of high unemployment.

It highlighted research carried out for the union by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a UK’s think-tank, which revealed that putting someone through university generates a £180,000 net gain for the economy. It stressed that without additional investment the UK would be unable to develop the skilled workforce required by new industries.

UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “While we are delighted for those who have succeeded in finding a place, this government's decision to ration access to higher education will consign thousands of others to an uncertain future and endanger economic growth.”

'With the vast majority of jobs in the future likely to require high-skill qualifications there will be an enormous cost to our economy from this government's failure to invest in the next generation,” she highlighted. “However, it is the human cost that will hurt many families today as their kids see barriers put up and doors closed due to lack of funding.”

EI: Crisis is not an excuse to deny equal access to education

EI supports its UK colleagues in their struggle to ensure quality education and equal opportunities to ensure a decent future for all students in their country.

EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said: “EI urges the UK Education Minister to urgently open negotiations with education unions. Tempering with exam results, cutting university places and raising tuition fees must never be considered an appropriate response to the economic crisis and tighter national budgets. By seriously investing in education the UK Government will ensure a sustainable economic growth and future for the country.”