The Coronavirus may not discriminate, but the social response to it probably will, and this could well be the case with the recent decision by the DFE to cancel A-level exams.
Universities will now rely on a combination of GCSE results and predicted grades from schools and colleges in order to determine which students qualify for which degree courses, and this will benefit some more than others.
If you’ve been working hard all year and had a decent mock exam grade (which would have been sat very recently in most centers) then you’re predicted grade should at least match the grade you would have got.
If you suffer from exam stress, dyslexia or any other ‘condition’ that may mean you under perform in exams compared to your ability, then your predicted grade may even be higher than what you would have got.
If you’ve got an unconditional offer from a university for the course you want, and you’re happy enough with your predicted grades then you’ve just been gifted two free months of your life, although you may not be able to do what you want with those two months, like going outside for example!
You’ve been spared that, however….
This article in The Guardian suggests that predicted grades tend to be lower for black and minority ethnic students and for those from poorer backgrounds, compared to those students from white middle class backgrounds.
The argument is that teacher stereotypes, or labelling if you like, mean that BAME student’s grades are under-predicted, and so these students tend to do better than expected in exams, an opportunity now lost to them. (Yes they may get a chance to sit some kind of exam in the Autumn, but that might be too late).
The article further suggests that those who are privately educated are more likely to have an unconditional offer and that those with ‘pushy parents’ are more likely to negotiate their children higher predicted grades from the schools, drawing on cultural capital theory.
And I do feel for home educated or self-studying students, who probably have no record of past achievement and no mock exams to fall back on, especially if they messed up their GCSEs and are returning to A-levels maybe after taking a year or a few months out.
The DFE, exam boards and UCAS are all aware of how a university entrance system based on predicted grades discriminates against certain students, I just hope they put measures in place to combat this.
We won’t know how effective any anti-discriminatory measures have been until we can compare the ‘results’ and UCAS entrance stats for this year with last year, assuming that data will even be published?
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