Wednesday, 26 September 2012

TUC Executive Report: September 2012

The full Executive met on 7th September to consider its response to the TUC Conference Agenda, and to deal with any urgent business.

Prior to the full Executive, there was a meeting of the Education and Equalities Committee to consider the progress towards updating the Union's Education Policy statement. It was noted that the union, and others had been characterised by the Secretary of State as "enemies of promise..." and this was a chance to unequivocally put the record straight and set out our clear vision for education, including a good local school for every child.

Acting head of Education,  Samidha Garg and her department were praised for the hard work they have put in preparing this new document.  There was a good discussion about amendments and additions to the statement, and I will publish links to this when it is formally published.

The meeting also considered the scandal of the GCSE English mark-down, which has robbed many pupils of the C grade they had expected to receive in return for the mark they had achieved in the exam.

While OfQual claim there is no political interference, it seems pretty clear  that there has been pressure for the marks to be adjusted  to ensure that there was no increase (and, indeed, a decrease) in the overall pass rates for the GCSE. The Government want to prove the nonsense of "grade inflation" rather than acknowledging the progress being made by students, helped by a massive investment in time and support from teachers and schools- targeted support, one-to-one tuition, after school and holiday sessions etc.

We were warned that the spectre of "norm referencing" was rearing its ugly head- this was the principle that grades would be awarded based upon the performance of a given percentage of students sitting the exam, rather than, as everybody was led to believe, whether students reached a given standard based on set criteria. (This was the system for the old 11-plus exam, where the outcome was to select a given number of students for the available grammar school places.)

Most worrying, if this is the route the Government really is taking, is that the pass rate can never increase from its current position. Therefore, those schools being threatened with closure, special measures, or academisation, can only improve their grades if another school sees a corresponding fall. There is no way that a purely  "norm referenced" exam system can reflect an increase in standards across the board- and however well they achieve against the criteria, 40-odd percent of students will not be able to achieve their C grade.

Following the close of the ballot on action short of a strike, and additional strike action alongside the NASUWT- there was also a meeting to discuss next steps. More information is in the specific article on this site.

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