Bad GCSE English results 'will need fix'

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The Independent Online
EXAM boards will have to manipulate this year's English GCSE results because government changes have led to a fall in standards, teachers said yesterday.

Last night, one of this year's chief examiners in English also voiced fears that a big reduction in course work, ordered by the Prime Minister, has lowered standards.

English teachers in a survey of 850 schools said the results of the exams which finished last week would be 'unreliable, unpredictable and arbitrary'.

A quarter of teachers suggested that exam boards would need to 'fix' this year's English results if the proportion of candidates gaining higher grades were to be comparable with last year.

Anne Barnes, chief examiner and general secretary of the National Association for the Teaching of English, which did the survey, said: 'After seeing some of this year's course work, I fear that there may be a serious falling off of standards.'

Course work accounts for only 40 per cent of the marks instead of 100 per cent in many of last year's English exams. Teachers argue that it motivates pupils and gives them more chance to show what they can do.

More than 50 per cent of teachers in the survey express concern about the negative effect of dividing pupils into tiers and entering them for different papers according to their ability. Teachers decide which papers they should sit.

Mrs Barnes said she feared that as many as 20 per cent of children had been entered for papers which were too easy for them. Since it was impossible to get top grades on the easier papers, candidates who should have been awarded a Grade B might receive only a C.

George Turnbull, of the Southern Examining Group, said the boards had never manipulated exam results and it would be impossible for them to do so. 'The boards are in business to ensure that the standard required to get each grade from year to year remains the same,' he said.

Music teaching in schools is in decline. A national survey found only one in 12 pupils receiving any instrumental tuition.

The survey of 600 primary and secondary schools last year found local authorities charging schools more for instrumental teaching, up 100 per cent in a year to more than pounds 11 per hour. And most schools passed at least part on to pupils. It also found that staffing budgets for teaching music were in decline.