Labour condemns downgrading of 2 in 5 A-Level grades as “huge injustice”

Elliot Chappell

Kate Green has condemned the downgrading of nearly two in five A-Level grades in England as a “huge injustice” and said that “young people will be opening their results today to find grades which undermine their work and their potential”.

The Shadow Education Secretary has responded to data published by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) on results awarded to students today, which shows that 39.1% of grades in England have been moderated downwards.

Thousands of A-Level students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have received predicted results this morning. These have replaced the usual end of year exams, which were cancelled due to school closures in the coronavirus pandemic.

Commenting on the arrangements for estimated grades, Green said: “Today is always an anxious day for pupils and parents across the country. That anxiety is far worse this year because of the fiasco caused by the Conservative government.

“I wholeheartedly congratulate those young people who have received the grades they deserve after working so hard. But across the country, many young people will be opening their results today to find grades which undermine their work and their potential.”

The figures released by Ofqual show that, in England, 35.6% of the predicted awards given out today were adjusted down by one grade, while 3.3% were brought down by two grades and 0.2% came down by three grades.

Green added: “It is a huge injustice that pupils will see their results downgraded just because of their postcode. We will look at the breakdown of the results, but it is clear the government’s approach to exams has been chaotic.

“Ministers must act urgently to correct the injustice faced by so many young people today. Students must be able to lodge their own appeals if they haven’t got the grade they deserved and admissions teams must be forced to be more flexible. No student should see their dreams slip away because of this government’s inaction.”

Urging a “rethink”, Keir Starmer tweeted: “Something has obviously gone horribly wrong with this year’s exam results… Parents, teachers and young people are rightly upset, frustrated and angry about this injustice. The system has fundamentally failed them.

“We need to guarantee the right to individual appeals, the fee for appeals waived and nothing to be ruled out, including the U-turn that was forced on the Scottish government last week.”

Ofqual set out its approach for assessments during the pandemic in April. Schools and teachers set a predicted grade for each subject and a ranking of each pupil within their class.

These predictions have been moderated by Ofqual using historical data on outcomes for each centre or school, previous levels of attainment in this school year and the previous one, and the expected national distribution of grades.

Ahead of today, the body acknowledged that with its approach to results, “there will be students who may have achieved grades which were higher (or lower) than the calculated grades they will receive this summer, if the exams had taken place”.

Overall, 27.9% of entries were awarded an A or A* grade this summer, which is up by 2.4 percentage points on last year. For the school year ending 2019, 25.5% achieved the top grades.

General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said: “While there has been an overall increase in top grades, we are very concerned that this disguises a great deal of volatility among the results at school and student level.

“We have received heartbreaking feedback from school leaders about grades being pulled down in a way that they feel to be utterly unfair and unfathomable. They are extremely concerned about the detrimental impact on their students.”

The grades released today follow results day in Scotland last week, where the Scottish Qualifications Authority revised down 93.1% of the those awards that were moderated by the regulatory body, affecting 124,564 pupils.

After protests and a bid by Scottish Labour to remove Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney from post, the Scottish government announced that the downgrading would be abandoned and initial teacher estimates used.

The UK government has set out plans for a “triple lock”, giving pupils in England the options of accepting their calculated grades, resitting exams in the autumn or appealing to replace their grade with a previous mock exam result.

But the University and College Union has criticised ministers for “adding to the chaos and confusion” with last-minute changes to the system, and the union has advised the government to simply use teacher predictions as in Scotland.

Earlier this week, Labour leader Keir Starmer warned that the Prime Minister risked “robbing a generation of young people of their future” unless he urgently tackled the unfairness in this year’s replacement exam results system.

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