Call for review of grades

A senior Conservative councillor has called for authorities to investigate the “over-inflation” of A-Level grades, following the Government’s decision to revert to teacher-assessed results.

Wednesday, 19th August 2020, 10:57 am
Councillor Ryan Stephenson, the new Conservative councillor for Harewood

And they have claimed that while the Government’s U-turn was inevitable, work needs to be done to look into how A and A* grades are now so much higher than in 2019 A-level results.

The comments, made by Coun Ryan Stephenson, the Conservatives’ education spokesperson group on Leeds City Council, come as the leader of the council and a Leeds MP accused the Government of not listening to repeated warnings about the algorithm which caused this week’s A-Levels fiasco.

The Government announced on Monday it would revert back to teacher assessed scores after almost 40 per cent of predicted grades were downgraded by the regulator’s “moderation” algorithm. GCSE results, due out this Thursday, will also now be based off students’ predicted results.

But Coun Stephenson said work needs to take place to make sure centre assessed grades (CAG) were so much higher than the previous year’s A-Level results.

“It was inevitable (the U-turn) was going to happen in the end,” he said.

“The fact it happened in all four (UK) nations, led by different parties, shows the complexities in awarding grades to students who did not finish their exams.

“With more time, and with a normal year, they could have got this right.

“But we now have grade inflation – I don’t think they are in themselves right or accurate, but it’s the best we could have done this year.

“In the coming months, there needs to be some sort of independent review on how teachers assess those grades.

“The number of students who got a grade A* or A increased by 12.5 per cent in the last year – it’s unbelievable.

“This is important because if employers or universities need to have confidence in grades and this is not a problem if the grades are genuinely secured.”

“There needs to be a review, not to change this year’s results – that is done now – but it is important to understand why the grade inflation happened in some schools. We will be able to see how they get to those grades.”

Guidance on A-Level results published last week by the government and exams regulator Ofqual stated: “The combined effect of this optimism, if CAGs had been accepted, would have been an unprecedented increase in overall outcomes. For example, at A level, the CAGs at grade A (and above) were 12.5 per cent higher than outcomes in 2019.

“This would far exceed any overall variation seen in a typical year and would undermine the credibility of students’ grades. Accepting CAGs would also mean that any leniency or severity in the CAGs submitted by individual schools and colleges would not be addressed.”

Following the Government’s change of heart on its grading, leader of the council, Coun Judith Blake, claimed that those in charge had been warned in advance about the complications it would cause, but instead chose not to listen to it.

She said: “While this U-turn is welcome, many young people in Leeds suffered unnecessarily due to the government’s incompetence and ministers have questions to answer about why they thought it right to penalise pupils in the first place.

“Handling exam results during a pandemic was an unprecedented ask, but they had many months to plan and indeed were warned about it by the Education Select Committee in early July, so it really shouldn’t have happened. My main hope now is they have learned lessons and done the necessary planning to ensure schools can reopen safely in September.”

Meanwhile, Leeds East MP Richard Burgon (Lab) claimed pupils had “taught the government a lesson”, and claims the algorithm disproportionately favoured children from wealthier backgrounds.

“The government has needlessly put young people through hell,” he said. “It was obvious that the approach they took would favour pupils from exclusive fee-paying schools like those the Prime Minister and his cronies went to and end up disadvantaging young people from working class families in places like East Leeds.

“I have huge admiration for the young people who stood up and spoke out against this injustice. Students have taught a failing government a good lesson and I applaud them for it.”