The Government is under increasing pressure to review its moderation and appeals system after thousands of pupils’ A-level results in England were downgraded amid cancelled exams due to Covid-19.
Nearly two in five (39.1%) of teachers’ estimates for pupils in England were adjusted down by one grade or more, according to data from Ofqual, which amounts to around 280,000 entries.
The proportion of students with A-level grade reductions was largest among those from the most deprived backgrounds, but the regulator has insisted that there was no evidence of systemic bias.
Schools and colleges were told to submit the grades they thought each student would have received if they had sat the papers, alongside a rank order of students, after exams were cancelled amid Covid-19.
Exam boards moderated these centre-assessment grades to ensure this year’s results were not significantly higher than previous years, and the value of students’ grades were not undermined.
After standardisation, the proportion of A-level entries awarded top grades still rose to an all-time high, with 27.9% securing an A or above this year, figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland show.
But school leaders warned of a “great deal of volatility” in results at individual centres, with some colleges reporting that more than half of their grades had been adjusted downwards after moderation.
Overall, in England a total of 35.6% of grades were adjusted down by one grade, 3.3% were brought down by two grades and 0.2% came down by three grades, figures show.
Some 85% of candidates classed as having a “low” socio-economic status by Ofqual had been predicted to achieve a C and above by their schools.
But this fell to 74.6% once final grades were calculated under this year’s new moderation process – a drop of 10.4 percentage points.
By contrast, the proportion of students from the least deprived backgrounds, or “high” socio-economic status, awarded a C and above fell by 8.3 percentage points during the process, from 89.3% to 81.0%.
Ministers are now facing calls to urgently review its moderation process in England and to make sure that schools and colleges do not face financial barriers when lodging appeals for students.
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, who has written to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, is concerned the process may have disadvantaged larger centres – such as colleges.
A letter to Mr Williamson from the AoC says: “We cannot stand by when the evidence suggests that many thousands of students may have missed out on their grades because of a systemic bias.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), called on the Government and Ofqual to review the moderation process in England “as a matter of urgency”.
“We would warn them against simply digging in their heels, and insisting all is well,” he said.