Friday 31 August 2012

Letter to GCSE students

Dear school students,

Those of you who have sat GCSEs this year are victims of a fraud. You will have been told many times by your teachers that it was vital for you to do as well as you could in the GCSEs because employers, sixth form admissions and anyone outside of school will look at your grades and judge you by them. It probably seemed throughout this last year or two that everyone around you was anxious about the amount of work you were or were not doing. I can remember when I sat the exams which came before GCSEs (called O-levels) that the nearer we got to the exams in June, the more worried everyone seemed to get.

No matter the worry, there was always the idea that the people who set and marked the exam were 'fair'. Everyone told us - perhaps they told you - that it was the fairest way to judge if  you had done the work. Well, I'm someone who thinks that there are better ways of finding out whether people know stuff or not, but let's leave that to one side for the moment. I'm also someone who thinks that at the end of the day, the main thing that exams test is  our ability to do exams. But hey, we do them, we have to do them, so we do them and we take at face value that they'll be fair.

And then this year, they have been exposed as not fair. We now know that the people in charge of making sure that they should be fair, have in fact fiddled the system. It's as if it was a game of football and at half time, when the two teams change ends, someone's come along, and moved the goal posts AND made them narrower to it's harder for one team to score. And it's the ref who has done this! The very person we trust to be fair and objective.

Thousands of teachers and headteachers are outraged by what's happened. The people in charge of the exams, Ofqual, have offered you the chance to do resits but this is really yet another way to move the goalposts to cover up their mistake. Mysteriously, the person who is really in charge, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education is absent today. Some of us think he's hiding. He's scared of your anger, the teachers' anger and your parents' anger as well.

I, for one, am hoping that this rage will turn into an action that will make it impossible for the situation you find yourselves in to continue. The exams you sat must be regraded. The mess is of their making, not yours. You shouldn't have to pay for it.

For the time being, there is one crumb of comfort I draw from all this. That is: these people who have power, these people who sit over us and try to rule our lives, present themselves as wise, caring people. Newspapers, TV and radio people point microphones at them and give them the space and time to show themselves as thoughtful leaders who know what they're doing. But you have seen and heard and felt that the people in charge of your work and your lives are incompetent and two-faced. They have deceived you,  your parents and your teachers. And now they say they are not to blame. Or worse, they've come up with some pathetic alibi about the marks being too high last time. If it's true, all it means is that they're doubly useless: useless then, useless now.

There is only one course of action they should be taking: that is to regrade you and resign.

I think that would be a very reasonable thing to demand.

Regrade and resign.

Very best wishes
Michael Rosen.