So, last night the student forums were buzzing with news that the 2015 Edexcel GCSE Maths Grade boundaries had been released. As students started speculating whether or not they had done enough, many teachers will have been speculating what facial expression from their Headteacher will greet them on Thursday morning.
Here are this year’s GCSE Maths grade boundaries:
My first impression is that the A and A* is low, and the C is worryingly high. In fact, a good/bad 8 marks higher than last year (historical Edexcel grade boundaries are here – just go to the final tab)
So then the teacher speculation, which has been going on all summer, reaches a new level.
My wife thinks I am mental around Results Day. In truth, she thinks I am mental the rest of the year as well, but even more so come mid-August. She has reached this conclusion because at 4 points during this summer “holiday”, she has seen me sat at the kitchen table, worn out copy of the June 2015 Higher GCSE Maths paper in hand, frantically making a tally chart.
I am counting up the “banker” marks that most of our C/D borderline kids should get, and then the “if they have a flash of memory/inspiration/luck” marks. On my most recent count last night, I make it 55 banker marks across both papers, meaning they will need to find 10 of the latter to get over the line. It will be those 10 marks that keep me awake tonight.
Then we have our top-set students. Have they done enough to get the A*? All year, on homeworks and assessments, we were working on the assumption that they needed 85 for an A*, meaning 170 overall. I would have bitten your hand off (in a nice way) if you had offered me 155. But now I am not so sure. The paper was a fair one, despite the national outcry over poor Hannah and her confectionery related dilemma, but there were enough challenging/weird/dodgy questions to trip up those students who were on the A/A* borderline. Have they done enough to get over it? Have they kept their concentration to the end of the paper, shown all their working, copied their calculator values down correctly? In my break between thinking about the C, probably between 3.43am and 4.28am, perhaps I will think about that.
I know it is pointless to speculate, but what else can we do? There is no denying that GCSE Results Day is of huge importance, not only to the students whose futures depend on it, but also the teachers who have taught them and the schools that have housed them. And its importance seems to grow each year, especially at our place, with a visit from our friends at Ofsted expected this coming term.
So today, despite my best efforts, I will be asking myself if I could have done more. More marking, more after school revision sessions, provided more structured revision notes, explained things better, contacted parents earlier, been firmer. Any one of those things might have helped gain the students those few extra precious marks that would have got them over whatever line they are standing before.
But sometimes less is more. So, would less homework, less practise papers, and less pressure been the thing that was needed?
What makes things worse, is that teaching isn’t like most jobs. In other professions, if you put in the work and the hours, generally you can be pretty sure you will get the results. That is not always the case in teaching, because there is no escaping the fact that us teachers are not sitting the paper (although I’ve often thought that would be a good Government initiative!). No, the paper is being sat by a group of 15 and 16 year olds (not traditionally regarded as society’s most stable, reliable beings), some of whom in my class may have had had one eye on a quadratic equation and the other on their forthcoming prom.
We can only do so much, and we must just hope it is enough. More than anything, I just hope that the students up and down the country who put in all that work get the results they deserve, and I very much include my own Year 11s in that group. And just as much, I want the same for the teachers – those who care so much about their students, and put in more time and effort than should ever be expected of them. This is as much about you as it is about the students.
So, whilst my wife catches up on the Made in Chelsea: LA Special and once again considers exactly what she married last year, I am going to have a look to see if I can find a few more banker marks on that paper.
Good luck for tomorrow, and fingers crossed for some sleep tonight!