Sunday, 23 September 2012

An unexpected response...

A response from Mr Gove's office to my previous blog, which I cunningly emailed him. They're sorry that my students didn't get the grades they earned. They like academies. They believe ofqual. Sorry. They told ofqual what to say!

Dear Mr Dunford

Thank you for your email of 24 August, addressed to the Secretary of State, about GCSE results. As I am sure you can appreciate, the Secretary of State receives a large amount of correspondence and is unable to reply to each one personally. It is for this reason I have been asked to reply.

I was sorry to read that your students did not achieve the grade they were expecting in their GCSE English exam. We know that this year’s grading of GCSE English qualifications has caused significant concern for many students and sympathise with all young people who took GCSEs this year and didn’t get the results they expected.

Ofqual, the independent regulator for qualifications in England, has conducted an investigation of the grading decisions taken by exam boards. Ofqual published its initial report on 31 August and this can be obtained via the Ofqual website at .

The report states that for English GCSEs this summer, a complex and unique set of circumstances came together to create a highly unusual situation for schools and students. Ofqual found that the standard set for English GCSEs this year is comparable with the standard in previous years and the June 2012 grade boundaries were properly set. Therefore, candidates’ work was graded at the right standard. Ofqual has also found a greater variation between schools’ results than would have been expected. It is looking into the issues further and will produce a final report in October.

The Education Committee of the House of Commons is also looking into the issues, and it took oral evidence from Ofqual, headteacher representatives and the Secretary of State on 11-12 September. Details can be found on the Parliament website at: . The Committee’s investigation continues; as a next step it has asked further detailed questions of Ofqual.

Decisions on standards, results, grades and grade setting for GCSEs are the responsibility of exam boards and Ofqual which is accountable to Parliament. Ofqual rightly takes its responsibilities over tackling grade inflation and maintaining standards in qualifications over time, very seriously. Ministers and the Department have no role in making decisions about grade boundaries – this is a matter for exam boards and the regulator.

Because of the concerns expressed about grading, exam boards have made early resit opportunities available to affected candidates in November. Should you have specific concerns about grading decisions, which have affected your school, you should approach the relevant exam board or Ofqual directly to discuss them further.

In the meantime, we look to Ofqual and the exam boards to make sure that the current GCSEs and the systems that underpin them are as robust as possible for the young people who will take them in the coming year.

Regarding your comments about academies, the Government trusts professionals and believes that teachers and headteachers should control schools and have more power over how they are run. The experience of the City Technology Colleges in England and evidence from the best performing education systems from across the world shows that more freedom for schools means better results.

Academies also help drive improvements across the whole education system through collaboration and partnerships with other schools. Allowing more schools to benefit from Academy status within a supportive network is a crucial part of our approach to school improvement and we expect all academies to work collaboratively with each other and with other local schools.

Ministers believe the creation of academy chains is key to sustained locally driven improvement across the system. We are now experiencing partnerships across the country where academies are using their new freedoms to work together, to share expertise and resources and to provide local solutions that are accountable and sustained.

Our best schools are now playing a key leadership role in driving the improvement of the whole school system, through creating and leading new academy chains.

The Government wants all partners to address poor performance within their chain so that all pupils in it have a good experience of school. We will hold each chain to account for the collective standards of its membership and we will expect immediate solutions to be developed by chain partners for any fall in standards.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write.

As part of our commitment to improving the service we provide to our customers, we are interested in hearing your views and would welcome your comments via our website at

Yours sincerely

Jenny Crowley
Public Communications Unit

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0057937. To contact the Department for Education, please visit

The original of this email was scanned for viruses by the Government Secure Intranet virus scanning service supplied by Cable&Wireless Worldwide in partnership with MessageLabs. (CCTM Certificate Number 2009/09/0052.) On leaving the GSi this email was certified virus free.
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