Drama grades controversy at St Albans school

PUBLISHED: 13:14 09 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:30 06 May 2010

St Albans School Year 9 head and drama teacher Danny Swanson and head of drama Peter Yates are unhappy with the AS grades received by their students

St Albans School Year 9 head and drama teacher Danny Swanson and head of drama Peter Yates are unhappy with the AS grades received by their students

DRAMA students at an independent school have been robbed of the high AS grades they deserve because of an unjust marking system, according to their teachers. The group of 18 students at St Albans School were the most promising their teachers had seen – bu

DRAMA students at an independent school have been robbed of the high AS grades they deserve because of an unjust marking system, according to their teachers.

The group of 18 students at St Albans School were the most promising their teachers had seen - but they received the lowest AS grades in that subject in the school's history after taking the new Edexcel drama syllabus during the last school year.

The whole cohort received an A or A* in their drama GCSE, which was taken with the same exam board last year. Fifteen of them received full marks and three students were in the top ten in the country for the subject.

But not one obtained a grade higher than a B at AS level after taking the new syllabus, leaving some having to drop drama because it could jeopardise their university applications.

The school believes the poor grades are a result of markers not being given adequate training on the new syllabus coupled with tougher marking guidelines.

Headteacher Andrew Grant, current chairman of the Headmasters and Headmistresses' Conference, has raised the issue at the organisation's conference this week.

Head of drama, Peter Yates, said: "We had predicted the students' grades and sent them to the board but they were completely out of line with what they actually achieved.

"In the past, at AS level we have never dropped below 30 per cent in A grades. And this is the best year group in drama we've ever had, they were absolutely outstanding at GCSE."

Mess

Drama teacher at the school and Year 9 head, Danny Swanson, was an Edexcel drama examiner for six years but quit last year because he felt the system was a in such a mess.

Mr Swanson said of the results saga: "A few boys had to stop doing drama despite the fact they were passionate about it and good at it because they couldn't justify it preventing them getting their first choice university places.

"It's a massive blow to their self esteem - drama is a very personal and practical subject and they have been told one thing by us and something completely different by the exam board, without any justification.

"The exam board are supposed to make objective assessments but it's pretty obvious it has been completely subjective because the examiners didn't get enough training and don't know what they are doing."

The school sent the drama work back to be remarked with a £35 fee per pupil but no marks changed and the school is now appealing against the grades.

A spokesperson for Edexcel said: "The structure and requirements of the AS Drama qualification have changed this year. Edexcel are confident that the standard of marking and moderation has remained the same and grades awarded are in line with the previous specification. All marking is in accordance with Ofqual's code of practice. Many candidates received results that were in line with or better than their expectations. We acknowledge however, that some centres were disappointed.

"St Albans School submitted some enquiries about results for AS Drama. The school have now received the results and we can confirm that no issues were found with the original marking of the students' work."

The spokesperson added: "Edexcel has issued further information and feedback to all AS Drama centres so they have a full understanding of the assessment of individual candidates.

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