The pandemic has unsettled the life of every family and child across the UK. We also know that the crisis has made life harder for low-income households, those living in insecure housing, and those at risk of homelessness. Now, thousands of students in England are facing uncertainty over their futures, with nearly 40% of A-Level grades being marked down. As we know now, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds have been most likely to be marked down in their results. According to data by Ofqual (2020) (The Office of Qualifications and Examination Regulation) via the Mirror online:
- 85% of teenagers from the poorest households were predicted to get C or above by their teachers – but this fell to 74.6% under the new moderation process – a drop of 10.4 percentage points.
- Pupils from middle-income backgrounds also saw their marks downgraded, from 87.69% to 78.2% – a fall of 9.49%.
- Students from the wealthiest families fared best, as numbers awarded a C and above fell by 8.3 points during the process, from 89.3% to 81%.
- Algorithms used to determine grades will disproportionately affect BAME students and those from low-income areas.
The A-level results debacle shines a bright light on the inequity of secondary education. As of Ofqual’s data, illustrated by the BBC shows, feepaying schools are the greatest barrier to equal access to higher education and life opportunities. Now, more than ever, is the time to call for an end to private schools.
There have been two key pieces of information used to produce the clumsily estimated A level grades:
- how students have been ranked in ability
- how well their school or college has performed in exams in recent years
This is a huge injustice, which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Students in the lowest-achieving schools, or schools that are quickly improving, have been delivered results with prejudice. With students in struggling schools seeing their potential grades capped yet again because of the school’s status from prior years, students have been left with uncertainty and distrust. Averages and accuracy ‘within a grade’ have been protected at the expense of students’ futures – the markdown from one grade to another is life-changing.
We must demand that colleges and universities now use teacher-predicted grades for entrance, rather than the classist, politicised algorithms. We need to unite and support colleges and universities to reject the flawed statistical model and adhere to teachers’ predictions and information.
As Debra Kidd says:
“We need to give those young people their grades AND we need to use this lesson to prompt us to reform the system so that it doesn’t happen either in covert or overt form to other children. That’s one heck of a hill to climb but the view will be worth it.”
Call to action for branches:
1. Lobby the government to scrap the classist ‘algorithm’.
2. Lobby your institution to honour offers made based on predicted grades.
3. Also, please consider signing this petition: https://action.labour.org.uk/page/s/a-level-results
Although see Prof Phil Syrpis’s informative explainer – it’s complicated: https://twitter.com/syrpis/status/1294634367466307584?s=03