Exclusive: Teacher grades ignored in most GCSE results

‘Vast majority’ of GCSE results, and 60% of A-level results in large-entry subjects, based entirely on statistical modelling
7th August 2020, 5:00am


Exclusive: Teacher grades ignored in most GCSE results

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Teacher assessed grades have not been used to calculate the “vast majority” of GCSE results that students receive later this month, Tes can reveal. 

And the same will be true for large numbers of the A-level results being published next week - one exam board has told Tes that in large-entry subjects around 60 per cent of grades will be based purely on statistical modelling.

This is because of the methodology being used by Ofqual for this year’s results in both sets of qualifications. Tes has learned that the regulator has decided that where a subject has more than 15 entries in a school, teachers’ predicted grades will not be used as part of the final grade calculation.

Headteachers have described this as “bewildering” given the time invested by teachers in producing teacher-assessed grades. 

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The process of calculating grades in place of exams cancelled because of coronavirus in the UK this summer has already proved hugely controversial.

Protests over statistical exam results

In Scotland a major street protest is due to take place this morning after more than a quarter of teacher assessed Higher grades were changed by statistical moderation.

So the revelation that in England calculations for the “vast majority” of GCSE results and large numbers of A-level results will have had nothing to do with teacher-assessed grades may prove incendiary. 

Most of this summer’s grades will be based on statistical modelling of pupil prior attainment, schools’ historic performance data and the rank order of pupils in every subject submitted by schools to exam boards, sources say.

The exception will be where there are subjects with no more than five entries in a school. In these cases, pupils will be awarded their teacher-assessed grades, as the statistical modelling would be inaccurate with such a small cohort.

And for entries in school subject cohorts of between five to 15 students, teacher-assessed grades will play a role in the calculation, alongside historic school data and pupils’ prior attainment.

Teacher-assessed grades will also be used in calculations for schools with little or no historical data of their performance - for example, free schools where pupils this year are their first GCSE cohort.

But for the rest - which will include most results in the mass entry subjects that make up a huge portion of GCSE results - teacher-assessed grades will not be used, Tes understands.

Last year, out of 5.5 million GCSE candidates, 2.2 million sat exams in English, mathematics and combined science. In these subjects, the overwhelming majority of schools will have cohorts well above the 15-pupil cut-off point for the use of teacher-assessed grades in the final calculation of results. 

60% of grades in large entry A levels based on stats alone

At A level, for large entry subjects such as chemistry, history and mathematics, one exam board has told Tes that on average 60 per cent of grades will have been calculated using a statistical model, rather than using teacher-assessed grades.

However, in smaller entry subjects, for example, classical Greek, less than 10 per cent of the grades would have been calculated using the statistical model, with most awarded based on teacher assessment.

Barnaby Lenon, chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said Ofqual had not been able to use teacher-assessed grades as they had been too generous.

“Every school in the country can expect their results to be quite similar to last year, so any notion that one group is going to do well out of this or do better is completely misplaced. They are going to be the same as last year, broadly speaking,” he said.

“The teacher-assessed grades are not being used in the calculation of the grades this year. It’s a combination of the historical record and the rank orders. All the centre-assessed grades were submitted. 

“Now, because they were inflated by 9 or 10 per cent, particularly at grades 4 at GCSE and B at A level, and because Ofqual does not know which schools have inflated unreasonably and which schools have not, they cannot use that data.

“If they used [teacher-assessed grades] they would be very unfair, because some schools will have been more optimistic than others and secondly because they’re trying to be fair to last year’s students and next year’s students and not therefore inflate the results this year.”

Ofqual said last month that if it had stuck with all teacher-assessed grades, this year’s results would have gone up by 12 per cent at A level, across all grades, and 9 per cent at GCSE - with bigger increases in core subjects. But it did not reveal that it had not used them at all in the calculations for so many entries. 

‘Teachers worked extremely hard’ on grades

Last night, an Ofqual spokesperson said: “We know teachers worked extremely hard to deliver this year’s arrangements and final grades this summer will be calculated using both centre assessment grades and a rank order of students provided by the centre.

“Centre Assessment Grades are an important component of this year’s arrangements and have assisted centres when developing their rank orders.

“They have been instrumental during testing to identify the fairest process, and are being used to quality assure the outputs. Centre assessment grades are the primary source of evidence to calculate grades for low entry subjects, small centres and those lacking historical data.

“From the data that we have reviewed, we expect the majority of grades students receive will be the same as their centre assessment grades, reflecting the skills, professionalism and integrity of those involved. 

“As we have said previously, we do not intend to publish the precise detail of the statistical model until results day as early publication of this information could also lead to some students unfairly finding out their results early, or cause unhelpful anxiety if they are incorrectly calculated.”

‘Bewildering’ that grading effort ignored

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It will feel a little bewildering that so much time and effort was spent on producing centre-assessed grades only for the standardisation model to largely ignore them.

“However, centre-assessed grades were still an important part of the process, regardless of how the final calculated grade is determined, because they helped to inform the overall work of centres in assessing students.

“And centres have always understood that the rank order in which they placed students was likely to be the most crucial element of the exercise, because the standardisation model would ultimately be applied to the rank order.

“All this goes to demonstrate the complexity and challenges of the grading system this year. Schools and colleges deserve great credit for the diligence with which they have approached this complex task, and students can be assured that every effort has been made to assess them fairly and accurately.”



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