Exclusive: Top unis telling pupils to press teachers for higher predicted grades

Teachers are being pressurised to compromise their "professional judgement" and predict grades "that will not be met"

Will Hazell

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University staff are advising prospective students that they should ask their schools to hike their predicted grades, Tes has been told.

Tes has heard from two secondary schools that universities – including institutions in the Russell Group – are informing students that they should get their predicted grades lifted because it will trigger an automatic offer.

One school leader complained to Tes that the pressure being exerted on teachers was putting them in an “invidious position” where they were forced to compromise their “professional academic judgement” and make “predictions that will not be met”.  

Simon Chapman, deputy head at the independent Warwick School, told Tes: “Students have shown me e-mails from department specific university admissions tutors suggesting they approach the school and request increased predicted grades in order to ensure an offer.”

The students were told this because “a certain set of predicted grades triggers an automatic offer”.

Dr Chapman said this was part of a broader trend of university departments “increasingly encouraging students to seek higher predicted UCAS grades from their school”.

At university open days students were given information that “specifically tie predicted grades to likelihood of offers”, he said.

For example, at one Russell Group medical school, parents and students were shown a slide that categorised predicted grades into four tiers. According to Dr Chapman, the audience was then told that 100 per cent of applications in the top tier would be guaranteed an interview or offer, compared to 75 per cent in tier two, 50 per cent in tier 3, and 25 per cent in tier 4.

He told Tes: “As teachers we are placed in an invidious position of trying to retain our professional academic judgement while at the same time pastorally being required to support aspirations and not make decisions that potentially could adversely affect a student’s future career.

“Universities call for realistic assessment of performance yet at the same time, through highly advertised grade requirements and more subtle encouragement to ‘aim high’, force teachers into predictions that will not be met.”

Jane Pratt, director of faculty and UCAS coordinator at The Grammar School at Leeds – an independent school in Yorkshire – told Tes she had “100 per cent” seen the same practice of universities telling students to get their predictions increased.

She said that when pupils made such requests, her school would hold “meetings with both the parents and the student” and contact the university to ask “is this actually what you have said?”.

“They will very rarely admit that’s what they’ve said,” she added.

Ms Long said her school only increased grades if the student could evidence in a test that they had improved - but admitted to feeling under "pressure" to do so.

“We fight against the pressure, but the pressure is difficult,” she said. “You simply want the best for the student.”

Victoria Stears, recruitment and admissions director for the humanities faculty at the University of Kent, told Tes she was “horrified” by the claims.

She said she had “never” come across the practice in the sector, and that advising students to get their predictions changed would send a “really irresponsible message”.

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Will Hazell

Will Hazell

Will Hazell is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @whazell

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