A few years ago we had a very good system for A-levels (Ministers bid to quell revolt over England A-levels by allowing mock exam results, 11 August), which divided the syllabus and two-year course into four main parts and, at the end of each part, there was an exam for each quarter of the two years.
This was altered by that famous expert in educational method, Michael Gove, for no obvious reason other than whim and ideology. He changed it from the existing modular course to our children having to sit just one final exam – perhaps the old flawed system used when he was at the independent Robert Gordon’s College.
The modular course was introduced for very good reasons after a great deal of debate and general consensus by leading experts. We know of the disdain in which Mr Gove holds the opinions of experts.
Had he not interfered, all students by the time of lockdown (when there was only one final quarter exam to sit) would have already sat three A-level exams and been awarded three-quarters of their A-level. Some would have resat their exams to improve their grade. An infinitely better situation to the current mess.
After all, this virus disaster was predicted many years ago but, it seems, ignored on a “fingers crossed” basis while politicians were occupied by furthering their own careers and internal politics.
Other viruses and disruptions will occur in future and obviously the former structure would be superior in many ways as well as aiding the exam boards to make their crystal-ball predictions based on the sacred cow of their statistical integrity.
Manfield, North Yorkshire
• In previous years, examination boards used an expert team of moderators (aka markers and examiners) to determine exam results. When I heard this year’s exams were to be moderated, I naively assumed this team would check the teachers’ assessments against historical data and evidence from individual students. These moderators would have had the chance to look more closely within schools and across schools by subject and by student to try to reach a fair set of marks.
This did not happen. Instead, an algorithmic adjustment has been used – an adjustment that does not require the human moderators and is presumably much cheaper to implement. How much thought went into the potential bias of the algorithms used to modify grades, and where did the money that is usually paid to markers go this year?
Prof Paul Glendinning
Marsden, West Yorkshire
• Amelia Hill’s useful summary piece on how exam results will be calculated in England (Report, 7 August) states that Ofqual will only use teachers’ predicted grades when pupil course sizes are 15 or less. Surely this will inevitably favour private schools with their smaller cohort sizes.
• When problems arose with Scotland’s results, Nicola Sturgeon immediately took responsibility and apologised (Sturgeon promises urgent review of 124,000 downgraded exam results, 10 August). I await a similarly statesmanlike response from the English government when the same thing inevitably happens here. But I’m not holding my breath.
Newcastle upon Tyne
• The idea of using algorithms to decide exam results was stupid from the start. What was wrong with grades being decided on school work and teacher’s assessments, with perhaps an input from headteachers? To paraphrase Albert Einstein, once we rely too much on technology, we become idiots. This has proved it.