'Boost BAME GCSE grades by up to 10% to counter bias'

And all pupils' learning styles should be taken into account so their GCSE and A-level teacher-assessed grades can be adjusted accordingly, report says

Catherine Lough

pupil studying in library

Pupils from black and minority ethnic backgrounds should have their teacher-assessed grades inflated by between 1 and 10 per cent, a new study suggests.

The report by the Equality Act Review campaign group, endorsed by a senior Labour MP, suggests that factors such as a pupil's learning style should be used to work out how much their GCSE or A-level grades should be increased to make up any bias in the system against them.

The recommendation comes amid fears that the calculated grades that teachers have to submit for GCSE and A-level candidates this week may be prone to teacher bias, especially against black and minority ethnic pupils.

Today's report, Predicting Futures: Examining Student Concerns Amidst Coronavirus Exam Cancellations, found that 80 per cent of 803 pupils and parents told a survey they were concerned about grade predictions and were worried about the impact of teacher assessed grades on future education and employment prospects.


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The study recommends that a bias index is used for BAME pupils, which would calculate "a grade inflation between 1 to 10 per cent which should be added to the final predicted grades for students from these backgrounds".

It also recommends that a "learning style test" should be used for all students in a separate grade inflation calculation so that those who work harder closer to exams are not disadvantaged.

It says that boys from BAME backgrounds "are more likely to work harder outside of the space of the school due to ‘laddish’ behaviour norms".

"Students also highlighted that they work harder under pressure and nearer to the exams," it continues. "As a result, we recommend that a learning style test be devised by DfE (on which we would be happy to consult) and for this to be sent to every GCSE and A-level student.

"The score obtained from the test should be used to inflate the predicted grade between 1 to 10 per cent based on the learning style." 

It advises that grades also be adjusted for mitigating circumstances more likely to affect BAME pupils such as "unstable" family backgrounds, and that teachers should undertake bias training before assessing pupils' grade performance this year.

Schools should carry out practice grade predictions using test cases before predicting the grades of actual students, the report says, and pupils should be able to contact exam boards directly to appeal their grades under an independent appeals process.

Suriyah Bi, founder of the Equality Act Review and author of the report, said, “As a working-class, state-educated, first generation to go to university, I would never have gone on to study at Oxford and Yale if my grades were predicted. Stories like mine are common and under pandemic conditions are likely to worsen.” 

Pupils and parents contacted for the report raised concerns over issues around racism, Islamophobia and experiences of grief not being taken into account. 

One pupil wrote: “Teachers know my Muslim name whereas the exams are marked anonymously so I’m being marked for my ability not my religion.”

A parent said: "My child has lost three members of his family during mock exams. His predicted grades went down. He has only just got started to improve with the help of therapy. Unfortunately, the exam boards don’t see grieving as an excuse.”

Of the 803 pupils and parents who responded to survey for the study, 85 per cent were from BAME backgrounds and 74 per cent were Muslim.

Afzal Khan MP, Labour's shadow deputy leader of the House of Commons, said: “The existing BAME attainment gap is more likely to have been exacerbated by this pandemic. Bias and other factors mean that predicted grades are not always a true reflection of a student’s potential. These concerns need to be looked at and addressed.”  

“This much-needed report highlights factors which are currently not accounted for in the grades prediction system. Given the time-sensitivity, it is vital that the government take these recommendations on board ahead of GCSE and A-level results.” 
 
 

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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