Exam chief defends marking amid warning poorest will be hit hardest

A-levels and GCSEs have been marked in ‘the fairest way’ says exam chief as he defends system that could see 39% of pupils get lower-than-predicted grades

  • Roger Taylor said teachers’ predictions alone would ruin qualification credibility
  • Combining predictions with statistical model is the ‘fairest’ way to award grades
  • Similar system in Scotland saw thousands receive poorer grades than expected

The chief of the UK’s exam regulator had defended this year’s A-level and GCSE marking system amid warnings that it will unfairly penalise disadvantaged students.

This year’s A-Level results will be published on Thursday, but with pupils unable to attend their exams due to the coronavirus crisis, grades have been calculated using teachers’ predictions combined with a statistical model.

Taking into account the school and student’s past attainment, the head of Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) has insisted that this approach was the ‘fairest possible way’ to award grades.

Roger Taylor said that using grade predictions from teachers alone would ruin the credibility of pupils’ qualifications.

Roger Taylor has said using teachers’ grade predictions alone ‘would mean such an increase in the numbers of top grades, that they would no longer be credible, something that has happened in other countries, dealing with the same circumstances.’

‘It would create a perpetual unfairness between this year’s grades compared to past and future generations,’ Mr Taylor said, writing in The Sunday Telegraph.

‘There would be young people who would have most likely earned a C in an exam receiving an A grade,’ he said.

‘Lastly, it would mean such an increase in the numbers of top grades, that they would no longer be credible, something that has happened in other countries, dealing with the same circumstances,’ he added. 

However, a similar system used in Scotland saw thousands of students receive poorer results than they expected.

Ofqual analysis revealed that teachers increased A-Level marks by 12 per cent and GCSE marks by 9 per cent. 

The Social Mobility Commission said that the exam regulator has ‘a moral imperative to address any injustices that occur’ (file photo)

The body itself has admitted that a substantial number of students will receive at least one exam grade that has been adjusted from their teacher’s assessment as a result of the moderation process. 

Critics of the system have said that bright students are at a disadvantage by being at poor-performing schools or that improving state schools may have their grades unfairly downgraded.

James Turner, CEO of educational charity The Sutton Trust, told The Guardian that past academic year has been ‘exceptional’ as he warned that ‘the pandemic has affected the poorest the most’.  

One independent analysis predicted that nearly 40 per cent of A-Level results could be downgraded, affecting 300,000 grades, The Sunday Telegraph reported. 

While Ofqual belatedly announced an appeal process last week, parents have said that it is not fit for purpose as students will not be able to appeal individually and schools will be required to pay a fee to challenge grades. 

The Social Mobility Commission said that the exam regulator has ‘a moral imperative to address any injustices that occur.’

Commissioner Sammy Wright, a deputy headteacher herself, said: ‘Overwhelmingly, disadvantaged students attend poorly performing schools. My biggest concern is not for the kids who want to appeal, but for the kids who don’t even think to appeal. 

‘There are a lot of students who, if they get lower grades than they expect, will just simply take that as a knock to their sense of self.’

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