News | Published August 15 2020

Labour leader calls for A-Level results to be based on teacher’s predicted grades

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said that the UK government must allow teachers’ predicted grades to take precedence following an “exams fiasco” in England which has seen 280,000 pupils have their final grades marked down.

Ministers were concerned that using teachers’ predicted grades could lead to “grade inflation” and defended the system used to calculate results, saying that disadvantaged pupils had not seen their final marks disproportionately affected.

With formal exams cancelled as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, final grades were awarded based on a modelling system, which considered the ranking order of pupils and previous exam results within schools and colleges.

The system churned out more top grades than ever before, with 28 per cent receiving A* and A grades, but there have still been thousands of incidences where students have had their results downgraded, sometimes by a substantial margin.

36 per cent of entries in England were awarded grades lower than what their teachers had predicted, with three per cent seeing their final marks down by two grades.

It has prompted calls for England to abandon the controversial algorithm and use teachers’ predicted grades, in the same way that Scotland did so after initial controversy there.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said that the modelling system produced a “robust set” of grades, stressing that any students who believed their marks had been unfairly downgraded could either appeal or sit actual exams in the autumn.

Meanwhile, England’s exams regulator Ofqual has talked down the idea of using teachers’ predicted grades as the basis for awarding final marks, warning that 38 per cent of entries would have received top grades under such a system.

The Labour Party criticised the lack of consistency in the “fatally flawed” modelling system, with Sir Keir calling it an “injustice”.

He said: "Young people and parents right across the country, in every town and city, feel let down and betrayed.

"The unprecedented and chaotic circumstances created by the UK government's mishandling of education during recent months mean that a return to teacher assessments is now the best option available.

"No young person should be at a detriment due to government incompetence."

Sir Keir’s party has also called for a review of the standardisation model, with GCSE results due next week.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission has called on Ofqual to consider the equality impacts of its actions and ensure there is no disproportionate downgrading of marks against minority groups or disadvantaged pupils. It has also called for a full breakdown of differences between teacher assessed grades and final awards to justify the marks individual pupils have been given.

Ofqual statistics suggested that independent schools had seen a disproportionate benefit in the rise in top grades, up by five per cent, while comprehensives had seen their top marks up by two per cent. Further education colleges only saw a 0.3 per cent rise in their top grades.

Meanwhile, some Conservatives have also raised concerns about the fairness of the modelling system used to award final grades.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, called on the regulator to “explain properly how the model has worked and whether it has been fair”.

Halfon added that exam appeals “should be no cost” to students, since the current appeal process requires payment of a fee.

Schools are allowed to appeal for marks to be upgraded and pay the required fee if pupils’ mock exam grades were higher than their estimated results.

Tory Peer Lord Porter of Spalding was also critical of the appeal fee and the modelling system, calling it “shambolic”.

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
August 15 2020

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