GCSE resits: 'Analysing past failures can bring future success'

Giving teachers data about where students struggled can help them target their efforts, writes Pearson's Sharon Hague

Sharon Hague

Analysing past data on students performance helps teachers focus their effort writes Pearson's Sharon Hague

With this year’s GCSE season fast approaching, teachers all over the country are supporting students resitting GCSE English and maths. They are faced with the difficult task of understanding what their learners can and can’t do, and tend to focus their precious teaching time on addressing the gaps in their knowledge. 

Teachers have a critical role in helping students and their parents get fair and accurate feedback on how students are performing. When it comes to assisting teachers and enabling them to personalise learning, there is a clear and important role that awarding organisations – such as Pearson – can also play. 

Read more: DfE updates English and maths policy

Background: Do I have to resit GCSE English and maths?

Opinion: GCSE resits: 'Focus on success, not failure' 

Addressing gaps in learning

We strongly believe that we must support teachers to help ensure they are able to address their students’ learning gaps and that they are fully prepared to equip their learners with the knowledge they need to succeed. It’s why we give teachers access to an itemised, question-by-question breakdown of learners’ performance in Edexcel exams and BTEC external assessment with our ResultsPlus capability. This access is available to teachers even where the students took the qualification for the first time at a different school or college.

At the moment, GCSE resits in English and maths are compulsory for students who have achieved a grade 3 (or D under the legacy qualification) while they continue their education. It is often the case that students are capable of tackling parts of the syllabus but have gaps in their knowledge or understanding.

On top of this, we know that, historically, teachers have had access to very little information about the previous exam performance of students who are set to resit a GCSE exam – a problem which is amplified in instances where students have moved on from the school where they took the test for the first time.

Saving six weeks of diagnostics

Up to six weeks can be spent at the beginning of the course with teachers arranging the necessary diagnostic assessments to pinpoint the gaps in students’ understanding and grasp of the curriculum. We understand that teachers are already under huge time pressures and the extra weight of marking additional assessments is not helpful.

Without access to where students have fallen short in the past, it is difficult for teachers to directly help them bolster their knowledge where it is most needed. For us, this was an issue we wanted to tackle. 

Before we rolled out ResultsPlus on a national level, we trialled the system with two further education colleges, Fareham College and Trafford College, where teachers used the ResultsPlus functionality in a range of ways, and let us know that they recognised the potential of ResultsPlus to facilitate more teacher planning and more targeted learning during the resit year.

Comparing responses to exam questions

We received great feedback such as “I really like the fact that we can get learners’ individual marks, because did they just miss a 4 or were they just into a 3? This makes a huge difference,” and “We could group the learners’ based on their abilities and that way we can focus on certain topics only (which) everyone in that class needs.”

As well as having rolled out ResultsPlus in the last few years, in 2018, we were the only awarding organisation to offer teachers free access to their learners’ papers that had been marked online. Used by more than 4,000 centres with over 10,000 users accessing over 430,000 scripts across nearly 600 of our summer exams, this ensured that teachers could compare responses to the published mark scheme before deciding whether to request a re-mark. This saves precious time, money and uncertainty for both the learner and teacher.

Ahead of the 2019 GCSE season, we are set to continue to provide this level of itemised detail on students’ previous exam performance even where the student has moved school or college. For ResultsPlus, more than 350 schools and colleges use the service– and so far, we have given out approximately 5,000 sets of results. Going forward, we hope to roll ResultsPlus out even further to ensure as many teachers and students can benefit from it as possible.

We hope this can play a role in improving learning outcomes and supporting teachers and their students.

Sharon Hague is senior vice-president of UK Schools at Pearson

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