News & Events

Leadership Likes: Dr Purvis

Last Friday saw the end of the public examination series for 2022 after sixty-three GCSE, and A level examinations were sat by our fantastic Year 11 and Upper Sixth pupils. These last six weeks have been especially remarkable as it is the first time since 2019 that we have been able to run an entire public examination series. Pupils reclaimed the agency their peers in the previous two years yearned for. Centre Assessed Grades (2020) and Teacher-Assessed Grades (2021) felt like a distant—if not forgotten—memory.  We re-established the familiar rhythm of twice-daily paper distribution, read the endless official announcements, spend hours clock watching, and set off on the once well-trodden path of pacing up and down between rows of desks.

At the heart of this activity literally and metaphorically sat an inspirational group of pupils whose education was anything but normal thanks to the pandemic. And yet, you would not have known it as each one of them faced the examination behemoth with a gritty determination that is so characteristic of our Croydon High School pupils. I, for one, have been very impressed with how every one of our pupils has coped over the past few weeks; it has been a pleasure to witness first-hand.

With the exam season and its travails now behind us, public attention naturally turns to the results. You might have read stories like the one published in the Telegraph earlier this week about ‘thousands [of pupils] to miss out on university places at the top A level grades slashed’. Such sensationalist articles are unhelpful as they cause understandable anxiety to those waiting for their results. Simply put, the story behind the headline tells us what we already knew about the grade distribution of 2022. It will be at a midpoint between the national figures we saw in 2019 and 2021 to reflect the pandemic context and to begin a return to ‘normal levels’.

What the article neglects to tell its audience is that there is no quota of pupils that get a particular grade. This is a persistent and troubling myth about grading and comparable outcomes, which Jo Saxton, the Chief Regulator of Ofqual—the independent government-appointed examination body—describes as ‘simply untrue’. As in any other year, grade boundaries will be set at a national level only after pupils have taken their exams, and after their papers have been marked. Grade comparability seeks to ensure that a grade has the same meaning between subjects and between different examination boards.

Things do get a little more contentious is around the project of trying to return the national grade profile to pre-pandemic levels in search of a year-on-year comparability. Here, I think Ofqual’s staggered approach is sound given that the conditions of assessment in 2021—with shorter examinations on pre-announced content—could do nothing other than lead to higher final outcomes for pupils than the traditional longer and unseen approach of this and other years.  We must take Ofqual at their word when they say that this years’ examinations will be the ‘most generous examinations ever graded’. We also must hope that university entrance processes are sensitive towards the difference in grade profiles of the 2021 and 2022 cohorts where candidates for those years are in competition for the same places.

As we wait for mid-August, I urge parents and pupils alike to do their best to avoid the inevitable ‘noise’ around results this year. Instead, when the time comes, let us focus on celebrating the many achievements of our pupils against the most turbulent of backdrops. I humbly suggest that the way they have navigated the public examination series shows them at their very best, and it is this which deserves all our attention and praise.

Dr Purvis

Deputy Head (Academic)

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