Ms Anne Thrope appals yet compels

16th September 2011 at 01:00

I always read Ms Anne Thrope's articles between half-closed eyelids. The aggressive and often offensive tone appals me. But I know she intends to shock and, despite myself, I am drawn to them in every issue of TES. I have resisted responding so far, but her latest article has raised my hackles so much I cannot remain silent.

As a long-serving head of department with a large A-level cohort, and as a senior examiner for a major exam board, I cannot leave Ms Anne Thrope's observations about resits unanswered ("Resit jackpot doesn't add up", 9 September). She has concluded that the inconsistency of results is best explained by inconsistency of marking - a fact that she feels is denied by exam boards who robotically claim that a "cogent application of assessment objectives eliminates the markers' subjectivity". Ms Thrope is, bizarrely, not happy that two of her students who had achieved D and E grades in a January sitting made a four-grade improvement in a June resit, which she believes reflects the inconsistency of marking, and not her students' improved knowledge, application and exam technique.

My primary objection, however, is that Ms Thrope's students first obtained their results in January and, unusually, resat in June. So either they were on a third sitting - having first taken their exams the previous June, retaken them in January, and again in June - or they had sat them for the first time in January. This means that either they were taking AS exams after only a term of post-GCSE teaching or were attempting an A2 unit after only a term in Year 13. If so, I am not surprised that their first results were poor.

In my own college, we teach many students for a complete A-level - AS and A2 - over a year, so students have no choice but to take AS units in January. However, they do so knowing they are on a fast-track course and both teaching and learning are adapted accordingly. In most cases, we are able to celebrate with our students when they have successfully navigated 50 per cent of their course in January, but should retakes be necessary we don't blame the board.

Sarah Tyler, Mander Portman Woodward Sixth Form College, London.

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