Just as fewer people are dying at this time of year than would normally be expected to -according to the long term average, and of those who are dying, more are doing so from flu than Covid19, nevertheless we are wrecking holidays with new quarantine impositions and increasing the ferocity of punishments for non-compliance with our new face-wear requirements (which only weeks ago we were being told were unnecessary, or even counter-productive)
Is there no end to this mass hysteria?
It really is hurting: the economy is in a nosedive and we have far fewer people returning to their offices and places of work than in comparable countries.
But ‘when misfortune comes, it comes not in single spies but in battalions’: Usually we are treated to scenes of delight as pupils receive their results but now my email inbox has exploded with the furore surrounding their estimated grades.
It is easy to say that I wouldn’t have started from here, but I wouldn’t have: we should never have closed our schools and cancelled our public examinations. Other jurisdictions did not do so and yet have had better Covid19 outcomes.
But having closed them, we had to find a substitute for the exams.
The paradox is that one of the persistent problems for pupils in deprived areas has been low expectations (that’s why well-led schools with demanding standards and expectations are so refreshing and successful in those places) nevertheless, the statistics show that when it comes to predicting exam outcomes, individual teachers consistently overestimate the performance of their pupils. Were it not so, we could rely on teacher assessments and do away with the entire machinery of expensive public examinations.
Clearly, to have relied on teacher-predicted grades as a once-off this year, would have been very unfair: There would have been no consistency across schools and it would have put pupils with teachers more inclined to make realistic assessments, at a severe disadvantage.
The mechanism to moderate predicted results using the historical performance of schools might have seemed reasonable, but may have had a quite unfair impact on exceptional pupils at historically mediocre schools.
There is no ‘good’ way of addressing the problem but why didn’t we see it coming from a mile off?
One way of addressing it might have been to have done everything somewhat earlier (after all, we didn’t have to wait for the exams to be over and marked because there weren’t any) then schools could have had confidential access to the results well ahead of publication, giving them time to remonstrate effectively in a clearly defined and agreed appeals process.
The surrender by Scotland puts pressure on ministers to do likewise and accept a year of grade inflation, but it certainly wouldn’t address the unfairness caused by a lack of consistent assessment across schools and individual teachers.
Of course. We’ll all blame the Government, but the cock-up is probably largely the work of professionals, quangos and examination boards. What we can blame the Government for is allowing itself to be persuaded to close the schools in the first place.