Ofqual’s statistical GCSE and A-level grading model was always doomed to failure, the exams regulator admitted today.
In a statement to the Commons Education Select Committee, prior to his questioning by MPs this morning, Ofqual chair Roger Taylor said that with hindsight it was clear that it could not overcome students’ feeling of unfairness over grades for exams they had not taken.
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Mr Taylor said: “There has been much discussion about the design of the algorithm. Many designs were considered and many proposals put forward.
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“The suggestion has been made that a different model might have led to a different outcome. But the evidence from this summer, including from similar models implemented and withdrawn in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, indicates a much more fundamental problem.
“With hindsight, it appears unlikely that we could ever have delivered this policy successfully.
“What became apparent in the days after issuing A-level results was that neither the equalities analyses, nor the prospect of appeals, nor the opportunity to take exams in the autumn, could make up for the feeling of unfairness that a student had when given a grade other than what they and their teachers believed they were capable of, without having had the chance to sit the exam.”
In his statement, Mr Taylor said Ofqual knew that “statistical standardisation” would “inevitably result in a very small proportion of quite anomalous results that would need to be corrected by applying human judgement through an appeals process”.
But he was also clear that “the statistical standardisation process was not biased” despite admitting that the “impossibility of standardising very small classes” “benefited smaller schools” and “private schools in particular”.
Mr Taylor said that Ofqual was aware of this intrinsic benefit of its model for independent schools “as well as some smaller maintained schools and colleges, special schools, pupil-referral units, hospital schools and similar institutions” but did not know what to do about it.
“We knew about this, but were unable to find a solution to this problem,” he said in his statement. “However, we still regarded standardisation as preferable because overall it reduced the relative advantage of private schools compared to others.”