A-level private school subjects see 'rampant' inflation

Classical subjects dominated by private schools saw 10 percentage point rise in entries getting A*/A, compared to ‘no grade inflation’ in popular state subjects

William Stewart

A-level results 2020 private school grade inflation

Ofqual's standardisation of A-level results has resulted in "rampant grade inflation” for niche “private school subjects” such as Latin and classics, according to a social mobility charity.

By contrast, state schools and colleges were unfairly hit by downgrades of the teacher assessments submitted to exam boards following the coronavirus cancellation of summer exams, Upreach found.

The charity’s analysis shows that A-level grades at sixth-form colleges were around 20 per cent more likely to be downgraded than those at independent schools.

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It has based this conclusion on data showing which subjects have school cohorts small enough to have teacher-assessed grades stand without moderation under Ofqual’s approach. And Upreach says this may prove to be an underestimate when other still-unknown data is considered.

The charity points to the fact that classical subjects, which it says are more commonly studied at independent schools, saw a 7.7 percentage point rise in the proportion of entries awarded an A* this year, and a 10.4 percentage point rise A*/A compared with last year.

It says this was because in these small cohort subjects “almost all schools” were given results that used the teacher assessed grades. For Latin, teachers’ grades stood in 97.4 per cent of schools, the charity says. In Classical Greek, the figure was 98.9 per cent of schools and 81.2 per cent for history of art.

And more than 70 per cent of schools offering Latin and history of art A levels in 2019 were in the independent sector, according to Upreach.

By contrast, it points to subjects more commonly taught at sixth-form colleges – with bigger cohorts where teacher grades were moderated – such as psychology, sociology and business studies, that saw little or no grade inflation: a 1 percentage point increase at A*/A in business studies, 0.5pp in psychology, and 0.2 percentage points in sociology.

The charity says around 30 times more students studied sociology A level at sixth-form and FE colleges than at private schools.

“Ofqual's flawed methodology resulted in rampant grade inflation in private school subjects such as classics,” UpReach chief executive John Craven said.

“By their own definition, Ofqual and the government have thus failed in their attempt at maintaining a ‘gold standard’ by capping grades.

“Popular subjects more commonly studied at sixth-form colleges saw no grade inflation. This, together with the use of a flawed algorithm based on historical data, has unfairly destroyed the dreams of thousands of ordinary students.

“The government need to urgently do the right thing, giving all students their teacher-awarded grades, rather than favouring private school students."


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William Stewart

William Stewart

William Stewart is News editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @wstewarttes

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