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 has so many unfortunate consequences
Usually we are treated to scenes of delight as pupils receive their exam results at this time of year, but instead 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 statistics show that when it comes to predicting exam outcomes, individual teachers consistently overestimate the performance of their pupils. It is natural for teachers to predict on the basis of what they believe their pupils to be capable of, but exams measure actual performance.
Clearly, to have relied on teacher-predicted grades as a once-off this year would have involved a measure of unfairness: There would have been no consistency across schools and it would have put pupils with teachers inclined to make more realistic assessments, at a disadvantage.
The mechanism to moderate predicted results using the historical performance of schools might have seemed reasonable in theory, but has given rise to many anomalies, not least having a quite unfair impact on exceptional pupils at historically less well performing schools.
Reliance on unmoderated teacher predictions, though unfair and imperfect, is preferable to the moderating effect of an algorithm
There is no ‘good’ way of addressing the problem but why didn’t we see it coming from a mile off?
One way of dealing with 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 (and even as I write, that process in yet to be defined).
The surrender by Scotland puts pressure on ministers to do likewise and accept a year of grade inflation. It certainly wouldn’t address the unfairness caused by a lack of consistent assessment across schools and individual teachers, but I think it would be the lesser of two evils.
Of course. We’ll all blame the Government, but the cock-up is largely the work of professionals and an independent quango. What we can blame the Government for is allowing itself to be persuaded to close the schools and cancel exams in the first place -so we are back where I began: mass hysteria.