Exams: Cambridge Assessment research finds that half of teachers' grade predictions are wrong

7th August 2015 at 00:00
picture of results day

More than half of teachers’ forecasts for their pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades are wrong, and staff have a tendency to be too optimistic about results, exam board research indicates.

The findings from Cambridge Assessment’s UK exam board OCR, shared exclusively with TES, show that accuracy is worse now than in previous years. Despite this, greater emphasis will be placed on teachers’ predictions of student performance in the wake of the government’s overhaul of A-levels.

Fewer schools and colleges are expected to offer AS-levels in the next few years, because the reforms mean the awards will no longer count towards A-level grades. Universities will therefore have less information on which to base offers to students, so are expected to place greater emphasis on teachers’ predictions.

Headteachers’ leaders are warning that the “decoupling” of AS and A-levels, which begins in September, will lead to even less accurate teacher forecasts.

“In the past, teachers could use AS-level grades to help predict A-level results, because they counted for half the marks,” said Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. “The new A-levels are likely to be more difficult to predict accurately in the first few years.”

Some school leaders fear that the reduced use of AS-levels will result in more parents pressurising teachers to give their children better predicted grades than they deserve, in order to attract university offers. 

Playing the guessing game

Independent schools are the best at predicting their students’ A-level grades, the Cambridge Assessment research shows. In 2014 they produced correct forecasts for 50 per cent of their pupils.

Grammar schools came second, with 47 per cent of their forecasts proving to be correct. 

Next were academies at 42 per cent, followed by comprehensives and sixth-form colleges, which were right in 41 per cent of cases. 

FE colleges came last, with just 36 per cent of their forecasts proving correct.

FE colleges were also the most likely to be overly optimistic about their students’ performance: 53 per cent of predictions were higher than the grades ultimately achieved.

For more on this article, get the 7th August edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents


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