Teacher-assessed A-level grades 'will be unfair'

A-level students at private schools are almost twice as likely to be receiving regular work from teachers, study finds

Catherine Lough

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The majority of university applicants taking A levels this year think the new teacher-assessed grading system is "less fair" than them applying to university based on their exam grades, research shows.

More than seven in 10 of applicants surveyed by the Sutton Trust charity – 72 per cent – said they thought the "calculated" grading process was less fair than exam grades.

The research also found that over four in 10 applicants – 43 per cent – felt the new assessment procedure would have a negative impact on their A-level grades.


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Students also reported that they were keen to take replacement exams in the autumn if they did not get the grades they were hoping for.

A higher proportion of students attending private schools said they would do so, with 60 per cent of privately educated pupils stating they would sit autumn exams compared with 52 per cent at state schools.

Coronavirus: Student concerns about A-level grades

The research by the social mobility charity also found that students studying A levels at private schools were nearly twice as likely to be receiving regular work and feedback from their schools than their state-educated peers.

"Fifty-seven per cent of students in private schools being set regular work and receiving feedback from their teachers, compared to just 30 per cent saying the same in state schools," the Sutton Trust's report says. 

The research also found that working-class students were more likely to worry about the impact of Covid-19 on getting into their first choice of university than wealthier peers.

Over half of working-class students – 51 per cent – were concerned about this, compared with 43 per cent of middle-class pupils.

Nearly half – 48 per cent – of the 511 applicants surveyed felt the coronavirus outbreak would negatively impact their chances of getting into their top choice of university.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Today’s research shows there is a huge degree of worry and uncertainty amongst university applicants and current students about how the current crisis will affect them.

"Almost three-quarters of university applicants think the new grading system is less fair than how A-level grades are usually awarded and half of all students think the crisis will make it harder to get into their first-choice university.

“There are no easy solutions to this unprecedented situation. But what is of upmost importance is that the poorest students don’t lose out. A cap on places is a cause of concern to university students. If and when they are introduced, they need to be carefully implemented to minimise the impact on disadvantaged students.

“The upheaval is also a chance to introduce post-qualifications applications. This means that students can make informed choices based on actual rather than predicted grades, which particularly disadvantage high-attaining poorer students.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We understand the anxiety felt by some university applicants that A-levels will be graded this year in a way that none of us expected, but we would reassure them that everybody is committed to ensuring that results are fair and accurate for all students.

"Their schools and colleges know them well and will be able to provide centre-assessed grades to a high degree of accuracy.

"These will then be submitted to the exam boards, which will apply a process of standardisation to ensure there is no disadvantage to this year’s students in comparison to any other year’s A-level cohort. This process will allow students to progress to university courses in the normal way with qualifications which are as valid as they are in any other year.”

 

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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