Friday 31 August 2012

Ofqual refuses a GCSE regrade

Ofqual have announced that they are refusing to support calls for a regrade of this summer's English GCSE examination. 

This is unacceptable - and the campaign to secure a regrade must now be stepped up. An emergency meeting of NUT Executive members has been added to next week's Executive committee agenda to discuss how to respond further.

The response below has just been released by the National NUT Press Office:
Ofqual’s interim report into GCSEs fiasco

Commenting on the exam regulator’s report into this year’s controversial shifting of GCSE grade boundaries, Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“This is a very weak and disappointing report and we reiterate the fact that there needs to be an independent enquiry. Reports suggest Ofqual knew three years ago that there was a problem in the examination system. This report does not recognise that they have let down teachers, students and schools.

“It still remains the fact that it is simply scandalous to change the grade boundaries halfway through a school year. There are thousands of pupils who got enough marks to get a C in English in January who have now got a grade D.

“Pupils should not be punished in this way because of the failures of the exam regulator or others. This scandal constitutes a real attack on these students’ chances to continue in education, employment or apprenticeships.

“Our suspicion is many of the students affected will also be those who have already lost out on getting the Education Maintenance Allowance and who will be most put off trying for university because of the trebling of tuition fees. At a time of high youth unemployment this is a highly irresponsible course to have taken.

“Resits are of no use whatsoever to pupils who need their results this week, not in a few months time. This year’s English GCSEs need to be urgently re-graded using the January boundaries which schools, teachers and pupils have all been working towards.

“Young people, teachers’ and schools feel badly let down by both the examination system and the Government. The speculation that Michael Gove’s talk of grade inflation and slimming down of examination boards led to this year’s problem has not gone away. To restore trust in the system, and the Education Secretary, there needs to be a speedy and independent inquiry into this situation. This inquiry should also examine the interaction between so called grade inflation and the high stakes examinations and league table system.”

Thursday 30 August 2012

New term - prepare for action !

New joint NUT/NASUWT advice issued today

Await news from the NUT Executive on September 7

Lobby the TUC in Brighton on September 9
I hope most teachers have had a good break because we know that last year was tough, but this year could be even tougher - unless we stand up together for teachers and education!

On top of the continuing threat to cut our pensions and increase retirement ages to 68 or more, another barrage of attacks is coming our way. From this term, Michael Gove wants schools to adopt DfE model policies that could fast-track teachers onto formal capability procedures and would leave us open to unlimited classroom observations.

On top of a pay freeze and increased pension contributions, we also face ‘pay-cuts-by-performance’. Gove wants the Review Body to recommend that appraisal judgements are used to block our pay-rises - or even to pull us back down the pay scale! 

On top of harsh classroom observation judgements, some schools will also seek to use the new ‘Teachers’ Standards’ to find fault with their staff and pile even more pressure on hard-working teachers.

As the scandal over the marking of the English GCSEs has shown so well, the standards that teachers and schools are judged against are also  open to political manipulation too.

We face a Government that seems intent on blocking opportunities for our students, trashing teachers, cutting our pay and pensions and widening school privatisation - just  as Gove announces that Academies won’t even have to employ qualified teachers any more! 

I’m sorry that this a grim picture to paint so early in the term - but the important message to send to our colleagues is that “it doesn’t have to be this way!”

The NUT and NASUWT, making up over 80% of teachers, are working together on a joint programme of action to oppose these attacks. If this unity is used correctly to escalate action - and not to hold it back - then this can be a powerful force that can be used to successfully defend teachers and education.

Joint NUT/NASUWT checklists have just been issued covering appraisal and classroom observation policies. (Copies can be found on the national NUT website via 

With some managers already getting ready to bombard staff at upcoming INSET days with more targets and demands, it’s worth noting that the joint advice stresses that the new Teachers’ Standards must “not be used as a checklist against which teacher performance is assessed”.

On Friday September 7th, the NUT Executive will be meeting to hear the final result of our national action ballot. If, as I hope, the Executive votes to give the go-ahead for both national ‘strike’ and ‘non-strike’ action, then NUT school groups need to be ready to respond as soon as possible. Local NUT divisions and school groups urgently need to be fixing dates for meetings to bring staff together to discuss how to implement action in their school and Association.

‘Non-Strike’ action raises lots of possibilities - but will raise just as many questions as to how it will work in practice.
It is vital that school reps raise their views with their Division Secretaries and Executive members and report on issues in their school. Different school managements, both across Local Authority schools and in Academies, may take very different approaches to adopting any new appraisal, capability and/or observation policies. 

The latest letter to NUT representatives from Christine Blower, NUT General Secretary,  states that: "The NUT is currently in dispute with the Secretary of State and, in Wales, the Minister for Education. In part this dispute is about the failure to negotiate a satisfactory system of appraisal and observation with sufficient protections. NUT members are currently being balloted for national industrial action in relation to this dispute. If the ballot is successful and action goes ahead, then members will be supported in refusing to cooperate with all aspects of a schools appraisal policy if it does not meet the terms of the joint NUT/NASUWT checklist and observation protocol. Where schools continue to refuse to adopt the provisions of the joint checklist and observation protocol the NUT and NASUWT will issue, in accordance with the required legislative procedures, a notice to the employer, to take further action"

But unifying national strike action is also needed - and pressure will need to be applied to make sure it happens. While unions like UNISON may have voted to settle on the Local Government Pension Scheme, other unions like the FBU firefighters and POA prison officers have voted to reject the Government’s proposals (see:

That's why it's vital that the TUC Congress meeting in Brighton next week, agrees to support co-ordinated action against attacks on pay and pensions, as well as building for a mass turnout at the October 20th demonstration in London. October 20th can’t just be about letting off steam - it needs to be a springboard to determined united action. That should include building for a 24-hour General Strike right across the private and public sectors that can pile the presure back on this hated Government - instead of them piling pressure on us!

If you agree, then join NUT members and other trade unionists at 1 pm on Sunday 9 September at the Lobby of the TUC being called by the National Shop Stewards Network. Bob Crow (RMT), Mark Serwotka (PCS) and Steve Gillan (POA) will be just some of the speakers.

Transport is available from across the country with train tickets being available for just £5 return from London to Brighton (see details of transport arrangements on

So make the most of any summer holiday you've got left - and then let's get ready for action!

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Teachers tell Gove: GCSE Regrade Now!

Today's Lobby of the DfE gave teachers and parents an opportunity to take their message straight to the Department of Education and Michael Gove - "we demand an immediate regrade of this summer's English GCSE!"

It was an excellent turnout for an event organised at very short notice over the Bank Holiday weekend, largely through social media. Teachers came from as far afield as Norfolk to be there. Speakers from the Lobby explained how the shifting of the grade boundaries had affected their students and threatened their schools' future too.

As the letter that we handed in to Michael Gove stated (see full text on "Students, their parents and teachers, as well as many members of the wider public, expect you, as Education Secretary, now to act swiftly to resolve this scandal. Unfortunately, those same students, parents and staff are only too aware that this unacceptable shifting of the GCSE goalposts fits well with an ideological agenda that seeks to privatise education, undermine local democratic control and restrict the opportunities for our youngsters to progress to further and higher education".

Kevin Courtney, NUT DGS also came along to give his support to the demands for a regrade (see Kevin's comments on the BBC news website: Journalists and photographers came from many of the main daily papers and an interview went out live on BBC Radio 5 Live just after the 1pm news (

Francis Gilbert from the Local Schools Network has posted this video of the protest featuring three teachers of English explaining the scandal:

There's also a set of pictures from the protest uploaded on demotix:

Now the NUT, ASCL, NAHT and other unions - alongside parents and students - need to keep up the pressure to win the urgent regrading that our students need and deserve!

Monday 27 August 2012

A letter to Michael Gove - redraw the English GCSE grade boundaries

This letter will be handed in to the Department of Education in Westminster after the Protest Lobby being held on Thursday August 28th, at 1pm:

Dear Mr Gove

Last Thursday, instead of receiving just reward for their achievements, many thousands of GCSE students found that their hopes of that vital ‘A*- C’ Grade in English had been dashed. It is now clear that this was owing to a substantial and unjustifiable shift in grade boundaries between January and June 2012.

Those students, their parents and teachers, as well as many members of the wider public, expect you, as Education Secretary, now to act swiftly to resolve this scandal.

Unfortunately, those same students, parents and staff are only too aware that this unacceptable shifting of the GCSE goalposts fits well with an ideological agenda that seeks to privatise education, undermine local democratic control and restrict the opportunities for our youngsters to progress to further and higher education.

The raising of the ‘floor target’ to 40% A* - C grades, a target that schools must reach to avoid the threat of forced academisation, is undoubtedly your decision. Conveniently for the supporters of school privatisation, this increase now coincides with a shift in grade boundaries that has made it significantly harder for schools to achieve that higher target.

If you are to convince schools, students and voters that you and your Government are not intent on damaging youngsters’ life-chances, nor set on unfairly extending your privatisation plans, then you have a urgent responsibility to insist that this summer’s English grade boundaries be redrawn.

I demand that you call on Ofqual and the exam boards to urgently redraw the grade boundaries for GCSE English to ensure that those students who, in June 2012, achieved the standard which was required to achieve a ‘C’- grade in January 2012 , are now also awarded the same ‘C’ - grade.


Friday 24 August 2012

Protest against the GCSE marking scandal

Tuesday August 28th at the DfE, Great Smith Street, Westminster at 13:00
UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who has already confirmed that they'll be atending the Lobby on Tuesday. 

Please spread the news and be there outside the DfE for our students, for our schools and for our colleagues! 

Let's keep up the pressure to reverse the gerrymandering of this June's English results and expose the target-driven privatisation culture that is suffocating education!

Instead of being able to celebrate their hard work and commitment, thousands of students and schools are facing an uncertain future because of the last-minute shifting of grade boundaries by the exam boards.

English results have been hit particularly hard by the last-minute shifting of the goalposts leaving teachers who had reliably been able to predict 'C'-grades for their students having to console Year 11's who have instead been awarded a 'D'-grade.

Many students' hopes have been dashed. Many schools also now face the threat of forced privatisation as they struggle to meet Gove's imposed 40% GCSE benchmark. Many teachers will also fear the threat of ‘capability’ proceedings  and loss of performance-pay awards as a result of this scandal.

Behind this disgraceful gerrymandering of the GCSE results stands Michael Gove. This down-grading of students suits his agenda admirably – to blame teachers for ‘failing’ students, to dissuade young people from pursuing further education and, above all, to provide an excuse for turning even more schools into unaccountable academies and dismantling elected local authorities.


Come along  and join the protest – and share the facebook event :

Here's an excellent summary on the scandal from a Head of English:  "It was as if Usain Bolt had won the 100 metres and was on his way to pick up the medal only to be told that he didn’t win because it was decided after the race that he should have run an extra 20 metres. Except that’s not quite right. The change in grade boundaries hasn’t affected those who came first. It’s affected the bronze medallers. Those who worked to get there, to get that bronze medal (or C grade) have been told that they can’t have it after all."

For more background and discussion, read Chris Edwards' blog on:

For the facts about the change in the grade boundaries see: