Halfon: Prove system is fair before GCSE results day

Education committee chair demands clarity from Ofqual as schools says they will allow pupils to use centre-assessed grades to progress to post-16 qualifications

Claudia Civinini


Ofqual must make clear how its grading standardisation system works ahead of GCSE results day next week to ensure it is fair and works "for the many, not the few", Robert Halfon has urged.

The Conservative MP and Commons Education Select Committee chair's intervention comes as some schools reveal they are planning to accept students’ GCSE centre-assessed grades (CAGs) to allow them to progress to post-16 qualifications, Tes has learned.

Schools are bracing for the publication of GCSE results next week after the A-level results published yesterday have left many students and teachers disappointed.

But some are planning to accept GCSE CAGs instead of official results for progression to post -16 – at least for internal candidates.

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Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 World at One programme, Mr Halfon said: "If the model has penalised disadvantaged groups, this is very serious.

"Ofqual needs to be a lot clearer and to explain in advance of the GCSEs how their algorithms have worked.

"We need to make sure that the exams system and grades are for the many and not the few, so to speak, it’s got to be fair – there should be a level playing field and I think that actually communication has been pretty unclear over the past few days and that needs to be rapidly changed."

A maths teacher at a high school in Worcestershire told Tes that her school had decided to accept CAGs for internal students but a decision over accepting them for external students still had to be made.

Melanie Muldowney, who teaches maths at North Bromsgrove High School, said: “For our GCSE students, we made the decision before the summer holidays that we were going to accept their CAGs to progress to the next stage.”

She added that the school had made that decision because they were aware that the use of historic data to determine students’ grade would disadvantage this year’s cohort.

She said: “The school went into special measures a few years ago but, with a new team, we came out of special measures in 11 months, so we will be hindered by our results.

"We can’t let an algorithm hold back our students," she added.

She said: “They need to go back on to thinking that life isn’t on hold for them. The key message is they need to go on to do whatever they want – they can’t have their hopes and dreams shattered.”

She added that she hoped more schools would catch on. Some replies to a tweet she published this morning suggest other schools are considering the plan at least for internal candidates.

One respondent said: "Absolutely, we know our students very well and if we think someone is capable of studying A-level maths, a quirk of statistical modelling won’t override that decision."

The move by schools is supported by teaching and heads unions.

Professor Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching said: "CAGs should be accepted at post-16. We would support this – no student should be missing out on the next stage of their education due to Covid-19."

Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told Tes that the association had been encouraging a “spirit of generosity”.

“We have been encouraging a spirit of generosity this year in terms of progression to sixth forms, colleges, and higher education institutions, because of the challenging circumstances. This is something that is widely recognised across the sector and everybody will be doing their best to support students.”

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Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

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