Life after levels: GCSE 9-1 survey results

Before half term, I sent a small survey to 10,000 teachers in UK secondary schools. I already knew that a popular “life after levels” alternative to NC Levels at KS3 was to extend GCSE grading all the way down to Y7, but I needed more detail to help plan our future grading strategy at Yacapaca. We got 201 responses – 2% is very creditable for an online survey. There were only three questions, and here are the results:
Just over half – 53.3% use GCSE 9-1 at KS3.  I don’t know what proportion of the “in future” respondents will use it at KS3, but if we assume half of them, it pushes the total usage up to 60.5%. Like or lump, it’s becoming the default for KS3.
Oh dear me. How on earth are teachers supposed to communicate student progress to each other, when two thirds record it on one basis, and one third on an entirely different one?
What makes it worse is that, as you can see below, it is not at all clear that many teachers even know there are two bases in common use. Too many teachers are likely to be labouring under the delusion that their way universal. I leave the kind of disastrous cockups that might ensue to your imagination.

What else is important to you about GCSE 9-1 grading?

This open question was designed to illuminate the thinking behind the raw statistics, and indeed it did. I don’t have permission to credit these quotes, sorry:
There is a lot of confusion over the grading system. Accurate mapping from A* – G is not available
  • nor can it be, due to Grade 9 being norm-referenced. At the top end of the ability spectrum, you can only predict a GCSE grade if you have national data for that cohort.
The difficulty is that we don’t truly know the accuracy of what we are doing as the way the governmental has set this up has made it quite impossible to judge 1-9 outcomes. We can only really guess.
  • Got it in one.

It’s grade inflation proof.

  • They promised us that, didn’t they. Actually, only Grade 9 is norm-referenced and therefore grade inflation proof. After a few years, student results will just pile up at Grade 8 instead.
There is no link to the IDEAL / Blooms theory, or if there is nobody in my school is aware of it.
  • This is a very interesting point. NC level descriptors focused attention and teaching effort onto high-order skills such as evaluation and understanding. One of the very unwelcome consequences of pulling GCSE grading further down the school is that it will focus teaching back onto knowledge – the very bottom of  Benjamin Bloom’s pyramid.

It is a total Joke. Nobody appears to know what is going on. It is a grade now or a scaled down Y11 grade. I’m already completely sick of it and haven’t started to use it properly.

  • Pretty much sums it up.

Are teachers abandoning NC Levels? Research shows the exact opposite.

One of the great things about running a really big database like Yacapaca is that you get an absolute ton of data to analyse, and you can sometimes give definitive answers to questions other people can only speculate about. The ‘disapplication’ of NC Levels is a case in point.

Michael Gove told teachers to abandon NC Levels last September. As it happens, we keep a detailed log of the gradescheme applied to each student set within Yacapaca. This morning, I grabbed the last 1000 changes to existing gradeschemes, and ran the numbers.

NC Levels 2

Out of 1,000 in total, 446 chose to Continue reading

My letter to the new Education Minister

Nicky MorganDear Nicky Morgan

May I add my voice to the many congratulating you on your promotion to Education Minister.

I would like to draw your attention to an unfortunate, and probably unintended, consequence of the disapplication of National Curriculum Levels by your predecessor.

The NC Levels are a national system of criterion referencing that gives English education a significant strategic advantage. The principles are Continue reading

Disapplying National Curriculum levels: the official Yacapaca response

Yacapaca delivers criterion-referenced assessments. This makes it very useful for doing things like predicting exam grades, because exams are based on tightly-standardised criteria. A Grade C is the same in Barnsley as it is in Basingstoke. At the upper secondary stage (KS4 in England) we have been able to support a wide spectrum of qualifications, and given teachers a reliable tool with which to measure progression.

The English National Curriculum levels have allowed us to do the same at Key Stage 3. The levels are sufficiently well defined that we have been able to Continue reading