A Quarter of GCSE Teachers Feel Less Secure in Their Role Following Results Day: Education market research carried out by the VoicED Education Community has discovered that a quarter of GCSE teachers feel less secure in their role following results day 2013 – this figure rose to 43% in State schools, including a fifth (19%) who felt that their position was ‘much less secure’. In addition, the research also found that female teachers (32%) were more likely to feel insecure in their job following the results than male teachers (19%) – although it must be noted that this is not a statistically significant difference in this sample size.
The findings were generated from a survey of 145 teachers with direct responsibility for teaching or overseeing GCSEs in their schools, and gathered views from across all regions of England. Schools represented were a good mix of urban, rural and inner city schools, and teachers taught a wide range of over 30 subjects, including English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Music and several different Modern Foreign Languages.
The research also suggested that a third (36%) of teachers felt their students had done less well then expected in this year’s exams – among these, a tenth (8%) felt their students had performed ‘much worse’. Despite this, two-thirds agreed that students’ spelling and grammar should have a bearing on exam results – a measure which was introduced in to several subjects this year having previously only been utilised for English Language exams.
Respondents were also asked whether they felt exams were getting easier. Opinion was divided, with almost a fifth (17%) saying they were and a similar proportion (18%) saying they were not. Around a quarter (28%) of teachers felt they were neither becoming more or less difficult. However, a third (34%) felt that the difficulty of GCSE exams changed year on year. Some comments to this effect are provided below:
“The greatest concern is not knowing how exams are going to be marked from one year to the next. What is acceptable one year is not acceptable one or more years later. The exam questions, specifically in Science subjects, are not harder it is the expectations of moderators and markers that change as they are given new direction in changing the standards. The volatility of the grade boundaries are of huge concern.”
“In discussion with other teachers, both in my department, other departments and from other schools, it is evident that exam boards have moved the goalposts without informing the teachers. Formats of coursework submitted last year were praised, but the same formats this year were penalised e.g. the used of certain types of map in Geography.”
“This year there has been a change in the grading boundaries and more pressure from the exam board to mark strictly. We achieved outstanding results for two years with many A’s and A*s. This year the profile of our group was different both in performance and academic response, but they struggled to access the written grades this year and for the first time in four years we have had written work challenged. However, this has not made a difference to the overall assessment of our pupils. They received more or less with the exception of 1 surprise D , A*-C across the board, as we assessed them to be. What I worry about is the pressure to mark against the pupil and the need to justify their grades so much.”
Female teachers were statistically more likely to feel that the exams were becoming increasingly difficult, with just fewer than a quarter taking that position (24%) as opposed to only a tenth (11%) of men. In addition, English teachers appear to feel strongly that exams are becoming more difficult, with two in five (39%) felt this was the case. This is a statistically significant difference when compared to Science and Mathematics (13%) and the Humanities (6%). Some specific comments from English teachers included:
“The grades in English are terrible – moderation and grade changes have prevented many students getting into sixth form or going onto AS levels. I have seen more devastated students and parents over the last 2 days than at any other point. The exams are hard – students are under pressure and then they change the boundaries. It is unacceptable.”
“Years ago as a teacher you knew where you stood on results day. There were few surprises and generally the students got what they deserved. In the last two or three years in English that has not been the case.”
“We feel that we have let our students down having achieved 78% with the WJEC last year for English Language – the same team of teachers in the same school with a similar intake – and yet we find ourselves at 60% with Ofsted and HMI looming.”
More details of the research can be found on the website of DJS Research Ltd, a leading market research agency who own and operate the VoicED Education Community. If you are a teacher or education professional and would like to be involved in research such as this, please feel free to join the VoicED Community.
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