Ofqual knew GCSE and A-level results were 'unreliable'

Regulator 'very concerned' that some students would get 'unreliable' grades owing to its algorithm, papers from emergency meeting week before results day reveal
22nd October 2020, 12:15pm

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Ofqual knew GCSE and A-level results were 'unreliable'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/ofqual-knew-gcse-and-level-results-were-unreliable
Ofqual: Gcse & A-level Grades Need To Be More 'generous' Next Year, Regulator Tells Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

Exams regulator Ofqual expected its GCSE and A-level grading algorithm to produce "unreliable" results for some students, papers published today show.

The revelation comes in minutes from an emergency Ofqual board meeting held the week before A-level results day and this summer's momentous grading U-turn.


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"The board were very concerned about the prospect of some students, in particular so-called outliers, being awarded unreliable results, but accepted reluctantly that there was no valid and defensible way to deal with this pre-results, and that it would therefore have to be addressed via the appeals route," the minutes state.

In the emergency meeting on 4 August, it was noted that "the data distribution of a small cohort or entry is particularly subject to volatility, and that apparent inconsistencies between CAGs [centre-assesed grades] and historical data could be due to either real differences in student performance or to instability related to the size of the available historical data set".

Ofqual said that the cause of inconsistencies between teacher-assessed grades and historical data would be impossible to identify from analysing the data on its own.

"Those causes are indistinguishable when viewing or analysing the data set alone and would require additional information to differentiate," the minutes state.

The regulator thought at the time that smaller schools and colleges would be most impacted by the algorithm.

"A technical panel would be established to hear appeals which Ofqual would chair. Ofqual would support exam boards with appeal cases to ensure there was a consistent approach. It was highly likely that small centres would be most affected due to the shape of the distribution of anomalous grades and the size of entry in a subject in a centre," the minutes add.

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