2022’s A-level Grades aren’t real, but then again they never were….

Unsurprisingly this year’s 2022 A-Level results are considerably worse than the previous two years with only 82.1% of entries gaining a grade C or above compared to 88.2% in 2021.

This is because this year’s results are based on students having sat actual exams rather than the results from 2021 and 2020 when the results were simply taken from what is euphemistically referred to as ‘Teacher Predicted Grades’, although maybe ‘Teacher Fantasy Grades’ would be a more accurate term.

The overall results haven’t slumped all the way back down to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, the last time students sat actual exams under normal conditions, but they are around half way back to where they were…

I want to say this ‘feels’ about right – it feels right that we are now back to half way between 2019 and the ‘fantasy grades’ of 2020-2021 which were gifted by teachers – and it feels right because students had ‘advanced information’ this year so that they knew some of the specific topics they would be tested on in their exams.

So it makes sense that the grades are better than the previous norm.

But one of the most interesting quotes surrounding this year’s results is from Dr Jo Saxton, the chief regulator of Ofqual….

To my mind this implies that Ofqual has simply set the grade boundaries for this year so that they fall midway between last year’s fantasy results and the last set of pre-pandemic results.

NB – this setting of grade boundaries is done AFTER all the papers have been marked in terms of number grades and the A* to E boundaries are stretched to broadly fit last year’s percentages, so in normal years we’re unlikely to see a radical spike or fall in the amount of any students getting certain grades.

And what they’ve done here seems to be pretty much the only thing they could have done to stop the whole exam system losing credibility – bring them crashing back down to 2019 levels and it makes the Teacher Predicted Grades into literal Teacher Fantasy Grades (which they are but us humans are quite good at kidding ourselves), keep them the same as last year and it makes a total mockery out of the pre-pandemic standards.

So they are left with a ‘staging year’ – bring the results 50% back down and then next year we’ll be back probably to within 1% of 2019 levels with ‘credibility restored’.

Do A-level Results lack validity..?

Well clearly YES, SOME of the teacher-given results from 2020 and 2022 are just false – they are NOT what some students would have achieved under regular exam conditions and the teachers and students probably knew this.

This year’s results have more validity than the previous two years because at least students sat some kind of test – in fact I’m inclined to say that maybe the 2022 results have MORE validity because students had an idea what was coming up – meaning they could be better prepared for the exams, rather than having to take a broad-based approach and revise EVERYTHING less thoroughly.

If we look at the last FOUR years of results taken together what they really lack is RELIABILITY – students not being assessed in the same way across any of the four years 2019-2022 means we can’t compare results fairly from across these four years.

But is this a problem….?

It most certainly is for universities who will currently have students on their courses who shouldn’t be because of TFGs – and I think this years’ cohort who just got their 2022 results will be negatively affected too as they are having to compete probably harder with a higher proportion of students with TFGs who would have deferred from last year.

And employers are going to have a mess with figuring out who the best candidates actually are because they can’t make accurate comparisons between 2019-2022 A-level graduates based on their grades which are measuring different things.

However let’s not forget that education has a value in itself, an intrinsic value and exam results are only a small factor, and in the grand scheme of things the important thing is that all of these students over the last four years would have learnt hopefully some useful knowledge, it’s only their paper results that are messed up, and that’s not the end of the world!

Advanced Information for the AQA A-level Sociology exam 2022: Education Paper 1

The [pre-release information](https://filestore.aqa.org.uk/content/summer-2022/AQA-7192-AI-22.PDF) for Paper 1 has selected the broad topic of education policies as the one which students will DEFINITELY be tested on…

the significance of educational policies, including problems of selection, marketisation and privatisation, and policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome, for an understanding of the structure, role, impact and experience of and access to education; the impact of globalisation on educational policy’.

The problem is, this is very broad topic, probably best further broken down into a number of separate bullet points:

There are FOUR broad types of policy:

  • selection policies
  • marketisation policies
  • privatisation policies
  • policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome,

You need to be able to consider all of the above policies have affected the social structure and other institutions, the way in which (different types of) student experience school, and how they have affected equality of access to education, and educational outcomes (who gets what results.

In addition to all of the above you also need to be able to discuss and evaluate the impact of globalisation on educational policy!

Phew!

NB I don’t think there are any quick fixes with this topic area, it’s just going to be a hard grind of revision trying to cover all the material!

Where I covered these topics on ReviseSociology.com

NB the exam board has been asking students to focus on policies ‘since 1988 for several years’ so I think it’s reasonable to expect the same

  • Every student should know in depth the 1988 Education Reform Act – which introduced Marketisation.
  • New Labour’s policies carried on with Marketisation (choice) and introduced more policies to do with equality of opportunity
  • The Coalition’s Policies included Free Schools (more choice) and the Pupil Premium – the later an attempt at
  • Selection Policies include the tripartite system from the 1940s, but the linked post in this bullet point covers more recent selection policies and concepts such as ‘selection by mortgage’
  • Privatisation polices come in two ‘broad types’ – endogenous and exogenous, covered in this linked post.
  • Globalisation and Education is covered here

You will find more links to posts on education policies on my sociology of education page.

Good luck with the 2022 exams and happy revising!

Advanced Information for the June 2022 A-Level Sociology Exams – what should you focus on…?

The AQA recently released its advanced information for the June 2022 A-level Exams, and for A-level Sociology this means telling students what the big essay questions are going to be on in each of the three main papers

  • (Paper 1 Education, 30 mark essay): Education policies – including policies of selection, privatisation, marketisation, improvement of outcome or equality of opportunity AND globalisation (few!)
  • (Paper 2 Families Topics, 20 mark essay): The family and social change, in relation to the economy and state policies
  • (Paper 2: Beliefs in Society, 20 mark essay): Ideology, science and religion
  • (Paper 3): Crime with Theory and Methods. 30 mark crime essay): Crime, deviance, social order and social control
  • (Paper 3, 20 mark theory or methods essay): Consensus, conflict, structural and social action theories.

NB These are ONLY the essays, the shorter (4/6/10 mark) questions can be on anything, and there is NO advance guidance on Methods in Context.

In short, the AQA are telling you content for about HALF of exams over all, so by all means spend a bit more time revising the above topics but you still need to revise EVERYTHING!

What should your revision strategy be given this advanced information?

This isn’t a typical year, now that you’ve been gifted the topics for the questions in advance, as this means many students will change their revision practices to focus on these ‘five known topics’.

This means that it’s advisable to spend proportionately more time on these topics to make sure you’re at the same level.

HOWEVER, I would personally (and humbly) suggest that you should also be practicing essay technique – focussing on how to USE the knowledge in these chosen sub-topics to answer specific questions precisely – this is what’s going to give you the edge.

Think about it – EVERYONE is going to know these topics better than in the typical year, so the standard student will be going into the exam ready to splurge all that knowledge down on paper – but if that’s all they do, they’ll get no more than a C grade (even though they’ll walk out thinking they’ve earned an ‘A’.

The mark schemes only give around half the marks in those essays for knowledge, the rest of the marks are for analysis and evaluation, actually using that knowledge to answer the question.

So make sure to practice those higher order skills too.

ANOTHER VERY IMPORTANT POINT….

When I say spend more time revising the topics above, I mean like spend about another 5-10% of the time on them – DO NOT sacrifice revising the other topics – collectively everything else is still worth half the marks, you simply have to devote almost as much time to these as well, because it’s still the case that anything else can come up in those shorter questions.

So personally I’d spend a fraction more time revising the above topics, but don’t shift ore than 10% away from all the other topics, and focus a lot on exam technique.

In short, don’t change much and do mostly what you’d usually do anyway!

Sources

Advanced information for the June 2022 A-level from the AQA.

Why has the Achievement Gap Between Private and State Schools Increased?

Possible explanations include less disruption to schooling, more parental pressure and higher prior attainment

Teachers in private schools awarded 70% of A-level entries A or A* grades in 2021, compared to just 45% for all exam entries across both state and private schools.

And the proportion of top grades awarded to candidates from private schools increased at a faster rate than for state schools – the A/ A* rate rose by 9% in 2021 compared to 2020 in private schools, but only by 6% elsewhere.

Why have private school candidates improved at a faster rate than state school candidates?

This article from The Guardian suggests that there are three possible reasons for the rapid improvement of private school pupils.

  • Private school students’ learning may have been less disrupted by school closures and forced isolation for individual students than was the case with state schools – private schools generally have smaller class sizes than state schools and so it would be easier for teachers to manage online learning and classroom learning at the same time.
  • Middle class parents may have been better able to home-school their children during school closures due to their higher levels of cultural capital.
  • Teachers in private schools may have been under more pressure from paying parents to inflate their children’s grades – this may not even be conscious, but parents are paying for a service, and if the teachers don’t deliver when they have the opportunity to do so (when THEY determine the grades, not the examiners), this could make the parents question what they are spending their money on?!?
  • The difference might also be due to the higher prior levels of learning among privately schooled students – state school students simply may have got further behind because of year 1 of disruption the year before, and this is an accumulative affect.

Relevance to A-Level Sociology

This update has clear links to the sociology of education, especially the topic on social class and educational achievement, fitting in quite nicely as supporting evidence for how material and cultural capital advantages students from wealthier backgrounds.

It should also be of interest to any state school student who generally likes to feel enraged by social injustice.

The 2021 A-Level ‘Teacher Awarded Grades’ – Incomparable with 2019’s but more Valid?

Nearly double the amount of students received top grades in 2021 compared to 2019:

While a politician might try to convince you these two sets of results are measuring the same thing, it’s obvious to anyone that they are not.

The 2021 results are ‘Teacher Awarded Grades’, they are not the same thing as the 2019 exam results (NB this doesn’t necessarily mean the 2021 results are ‘worse’ or ‘less valid’ than 2019s, it might be the the former and all previous years’ results which lacked validity).

The 2019 results measured the actual performance of students under exam conditions, we can call those ‘exam results’.

The 2021 results were ‘teacher awarded grades’ based on some kind of in-house assessment, and marked in-house.

And this difference in assessment and marking procedures seems to be the most likely candidate which can explain the huge increase in top grades.

NB – this means there is no reliability between the results in 2020 and 2021 and all previous results, there is a ‘reliability break’ if you like, no comparison can be made because of this.

This is quite a nice example of that key research methods concept of (lack of) reliability.

The 2019 exam procedure

The 2019 results measured what students actually achieved in standardised A-level examinations –

  1. ALL students sat the same set of exams prepared by an exam-board at the same time and under broadly similar conditions.
  2. It is guaranteed that students would have sat these exams blind.
  3. All exam work was assessed independently by professional examiners
  4. The work was moderated by ‘team leaders’.

What this means is that you’ve got students all over England and Wales being subjected to standardised procedures, everyone assessed in the same way.

The 2021 Teacher Awarded Grade procedure

  1. Schools and teachers set their own series of in-house assessments, no standardisation across centres.
  2. There is no guarantee about how blind these assessments were or any knowledge about the conditions, no standardisation across centres.
  3. Teachers marked their own in-house assessments themselves – in small centres (private schools) this may well have been literally by the same teacher as taught the students, in larger centres more likely the marking was shared across several teachers in the same department, but not necessarily, we don’t know.
  4. There was no external moderation of teacher assessed work, at least not in the case of regular exam based A-levels.

You have to be a politician to be able claim the above two procedures are in the remotest bit compatible!

They are clearly so different that you can’t compare 2019’s results with 2021s, there’s been a radical shift in the means of the assessment, this is a socially constructed process of grade-inflation.

So which is the more valid set of results – 2019s or 2021s?

IF the purpose of grades is to give an indication of student’s ability in a subject then maybe this years results are more valid than 2019s?

I’m no fan of formal examinations, and the one big advantage of 2021 is that there were none, allowing more time for teaching and learning, and less time worrying about exam technique, and probably a lot less stress all round. (the later not the case in 2020).

This year’s assessment procedures would probably have been more natural (had more ecological validity) than a formal examination – it’s hard to get more artificial than an exam after all.

And of course the students are the big winners, more of them have higher grades, and no doubt those that have them are chuffed – and Ive nothing against more young people having something good happen to them, lord knows they have enough problems in their lives now and going forwards as it is!

The problem with the 2021 model is the lack of objectivity and standardisation – we simply don’t know which of those students would have actually got an A or A* under standardised conditions – certainly not all of them, so possibly we don’t know who is the best at exams.

But does the later matter? Do we really need to know who is marginally better at performing under the artificiality of exams anyway?

When it comes the job market further down the line, it’s unlikely that A-level exam performance will have that much baring on someone’s ability to do a job, so maybe it’s better that more students won’t have a string of Cs held against them as would have been the case for the 2019 and previous cohorts.

And someone’s ability to do a job can be determined with a rigorous interview procedure, after all.

The difficult decision is going to be what we do with next year’s results, assuming that exams are re-instated – IF the class of 2022 come out with a spread of results similar to 2019 rather than 2021, that doesn’t seem like a fair outcome to me.

Find out More

The Education Policy Institute has an objective analysis of the 2021 A-level results.

A-level Sociology Teaching Resources (Crime and Deviance)

I’ve just released the first of four packages of teaching resources for Crime and Deviance as part of my sociology teaching resources subscription package, available for only £9.99 a month!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sociology-teaching-resources-724x1024.png

This month’s (May 2021) teaching resource bundle contains work books and Power Points covering eight lessons on Crime and Deviance – Intro to Crime, Functionalism and Consensus Theories and Marxism and Crime

Resources in the May 2021 bundle include

  1. Intro to Crime
  2. Intro to Crime Statistics
  3. Introducing perspectives on Crime and Deviance using the London Riots as an example
  4. Consensus Theories 1 – Functionalism, Bonds of Attachment and Strain Theory
  5. Consensus Theories 2 – Subcultural and Underclass Theory
  6. Marxism and Crime 1 – Crimogenic Capitalism and Corporate Crime
  7. Marxism and Crime 2 – Selective Law Enforcement and the ‘real’ functions of punishment
  8. Marxism and Crime 3  – Marxism and Crime Letter writing research task

The lessons are typically planned to last for one hour and 15 minutes, although some are longer. The Consensus Theories for example are longer lessons. 

The materials contain a good deal of material applying Crime and Deviance to Coronavirus and Lockdown.

The next three months resources will also focus on Crime and Deviance and work through the rest of the specification.

Resources in the bundle include:

  • Work books
  • Power points
  • Also contained in this month’s (May 2021) teaching bundle is a students Scheme of Work and some revision/ review material.

Fully modifiable resources

Every teacher likes to make resources their own by adding some things in and cutting other things out – and you can do this with both the work pack and the PowerPoints because I’m selling them in Word and PPT, rather than as PDFs, so you can modify them!

NB – I have had to remove most the pictures I use personally, for copyright reasons, but I’m sure you can find your own to fit in. It’s obvious where I’ve taken them out!

More resources to come…

I’m making resources available every month as part of this teacher resource subscription package. The schedule of release of resources is as below:

Researching in Classrooms

The classic method for researching in classrooms is non-participant observation, the method used by OFSTED inspectors. However, there are other methods available to the researcher who wishes to conduct research on actual lessons within schools.

Classrooms are closed environments with very clear rules of behaviour and typically containing around 20-30 students, one teacher and maybe one learning assistant, and lessons usually lasting from 40 minutes to an hour.

The obvious choice of research method for using in a classroom is that of non-participant observation, where the researcher takes on the role of the OFSTED inspector.

The fact that there are so many students in one place, and potentially hundreds of micro-interactions in even just a 40-minute lesson gives the observational researcher plenty to focus on, so classrooms are perhaps some of the most data rich environments within education.

Arguably the most useful way of collecting observational data would be for the researcher to have an idea about what they are looking for in advance – possibly how many times teachers praise which pupils, or how many times disruptive behaviour takes place, and how the teacher responds, rather than trying to watch everything, which would be difficult.

And students will probably be used to OFSTED inspections, or other staff in the school dropping in to observe lessons occasionally, thus it should be relatively easy for a researcher to blend into the background and observe without being too obtrusive.

The fact that classrooms are usually organised in a standardised way (they tend to be similar sizes, with only a few possible variations on desk layouts) also means the researcher has a good basis for reliability – any differences he observes in teacher or student behaviour across classrooms or schools is probably because of the teachers or pupils themselves, not differences in the environments they are in (at least to an extent!).

There are, however, some limitations with researching in classrooms.

Gaining access could be a problem – not all teachers are going to be willing to have a researcher observing them. They may regard their classroom as their environment and think they have little to gain from an outsider observing them – although if a researcher is a teacher themselves, they could maybe offer some useful feedback about teaching strategies applied by teachers.

Teachers will probably act differently when observed – if you think back to OFSTED inspections, teachers usually ‘up their game’ and make sure to be more inclusive and encouraging, this is likely to happen when anyone observes.

Similarly, pupils may behave differently – they may be more reluctant to contribute because of a researcher being present, or disruptive students may act up even more.

Classrooms are very unique, controlled environments, with only two roles (teachers and students) and clear norms. Teachers and students alike will not be themselves in these highly unusual situations.

Finally, researchers wouldn’t be able to dig deeper and ask probing questions when part of a lesson, unless they took on the role of participant observer by becoming an learning assistant, but even then they would be limited to what they could ask if they didn’t want to disrupt the lesson flow.

It’s not all about direct non-participant observation

Researchers might choose a more participatory approach to researching in classrooms, by training to be a learning assistant or even a teacher, and doing much longer term, unstructured observational research with students.

This would enable them to get to really know the students within a lesson, and make it very easy to to ask deeper questions outside of lessons.

The problem with this would be that they would then be part of the educational establishment and students may not wish to open up to them precisely because of that reason.

A further option would be to put up cameras and observe from a distance, but this might come up against some resistance from both teachers and students, and it would be more difficult to ask follow up questions if reviewing the recordings some time after the actual lesson took place.

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Sociological Perspectives on the 2020 Exam results fiasco

What a mess this years exam results were!

First of all students get awarded their results based primarily on an algorithm, which adjusted center predicted grades up or down depending on how their historical results records.

Then those results were scrapped in favour of the original teacher predicted grades, awarded several months ago, unless the algorithm grade was better!

And finally, amidst all that chaos, BTEC students just get forgotten about with the publication of their results being delayed.

Unfortunately there isn’t a ‘total balls up’ perspective in Sociology, as that would most definitely be the best fit to explain what occurred, and I’m not sure that any one perspective can really explain what’s going on, but there some concepts we can apply….

Marxism

A basic tenet of Marxism applied to education is that the education system tends to benefit the middle classes more than the working classes, and especially the 7% of privately schooled kids compared to other 93% who are educated in state school.s

The algorithm which was used to adjust teacher predicted grades benefitted those from higher class backgrounds more than from lower class backgrounds.

You’ll need to follow the Twitter threads below for the evidence…

The Power of Popular Protest

However, students protested…..

And as we all know, the algorithm was overturned, and we ended up with teacher predicted grades being the basis for results (unless the algorithm gave students a better result of course!).

So in this case the system did try to to screw the working classes, but popular protest managed a small victory.

NB – it’s worth pointing out that Independently schooled kids probably still have better results on average than working class kids, so while this may feel like a victory, it’s maybe no big deal really?

Labelling Theory

I think there’s an interesting application here in relation to teacher predicted grades – clearly teachers have exaggerated these as much as they can, because the results on average are nearly a grade up compared to last year – which is a great example of teachers positively labelling their students in terms of giving them the highest grades they might have achieved.

It kind of shows you that, at the end of the day, teachers are more positive about their students than negative.

For one year only, we’ve got results based on labels, the projections in teachers’ heads rather than being based on objectively measured performance. In some cases over the next year we are going to see the limitations of labelling theory – just because a teacher says someone is capable of getting 5 good GCSEs doesn’t mean they are going to be able to cope with A levels rather than BTECs at college.

Keep in mind that some of the teacher predicted rates are going to be utter fantasy, and not every case is going to end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy – there are going to be a lot of failures at A-level as thousands of over-predicted students can’t cope.

Probably less so at universities – they need the money from tuition fees, so they’ll probably just lower their standards for this cohort.

Functionalism

You may think that this has no relevance, HOWEVER, the system hasn’t collapsed, has it?

There was a bit of a blip, a few people got upset and protested, and now this year’s students have ended up with much better results than last year’s students based on teacher predicted grades which are clearly about as exaggerated as they can get away with.

And now we’re all heading back to college and university and things are going to go back to the ‘new normal’, without anything very much changing, despite the fact that so many flaws have been revealed in how the exam system works.

I’d say this whole fiasco has been a pretty good example of a system coping well with a crisis and coming out the other side relatively unscathed.

Postmodernism and Late Modernism

The extent to which these apply is a bit of a mixed bag….

The government certainly showed a high degree of uncertainty about how to award results, resulting in wide spread chaos, which certainly seems to fit in which the postmodern perspective.

However, that’s about as far as it goes I think…. students and parents alike showed an utter contempt for being ruled by an algorithim, which is one of the primary mechanisms of social control in post/ late modern societies (via actuaralism) – and yet when its workings are brought to light, people resisted – they wanted justice and meritocracy rather than this bizarre way of managing selves.

Also the fact that people actually seem to care about their results and want a sense of justice isn’t really postmodern – it’s a very modernist concern, to be interested in one’s education and future career, and I get the feeling that rather than kicking back and enjoying their postmodern leisure time, students have just been generally worried about their results and their future.

So there’s been a high level of uncertainty and fear/ worry, that’s quite postmodern, but the fact that people actually care about education, that’s more modernist….

‘Results’ Day

Students like to think that their exam results are primarily down their own individual effort and ability (their ‘merit’ if you like), and these are two of the factors which influence their exam results.

However, the results statistics clearly show us that social factors such as parental income, wider social class background, gender and ethnicity clearly impact the results.

To put it in stark terms: being born to middle class Indian parents gives you a much better chance of getting 3 A grades at A-level compared to being born to white working-class parents.

Granted, that within your ‘cultural’ grouping, individual factors such as raw intelligence and ability are going to effect results, in some cases that ability and effort will be so outstanding that some white working class kids will do better than some middle class Indian kids, but on average, social factors effect the results too.

Thus, you could say that we end up skewed, unfair results every year, because the exam results are at least partially measuring class, gender and ethnic background.

The school that pupils attend also has an ‘effect’, on average, with some schools getting persistently good results, mainly the independent schools, a few schools seemingly doomed to failure, and most schools chugging along somewhere in the middle.

However, that said, at least when individual students sit exams, they are assessed by the same standards, and ranked against each other according to those same standards, and they can move up and down from their ‘class/ gender/ ethnicity’ base-average  depending on their individual effort and ability, or lack of either, so in that sense, exams are fair.

What usually happens once all the exams have been marked, according to the same standards, is that the chief examiners look at the spread of results, and then decide what raw mark translates to a pass grade (an E grade), and what amount of raw marks counts for an A* grade.

Generally speaking, the 2 boundaries – U/E and upper A* yield similar percentages each year – in Sociology it’s around a 98% pass rate and a 5% A* rate (NB that is from memory so excuse any inaccuracy), and then within that students receive A-E grades relative to other people, with everyone having sat the same exam.

The 2020 Results Fiasco

This ‘standardisation’ of students sitting the same exam and then those exams being marked according to the same standards didn’t happen this year because students have not sat exams.

Instead, exam results were based on teacher predicted grades , and then modified according to a black-box algorithm, which, as I understand it, took account of factors such as the track-record of the school.

The problem with results being based on teacher predictions

On the face of it, teachers are the ones best place to decide what grades their students would have got, had they sat the exams: they know their students, they have evidence from at least a year’s worth of work.

The problem is that teachers don’t use the same standards to mark work – some are harsh, some are soft, having different theories about the best way to motivate students, so if mark-book grades are to be used as evidence, students are not being assessed in the same way.

A second problem is that teachers will inflate the predicted grades, at least most of them will – it’s a competitive system, so of course you’re going to game the results up as far as you can without the grades looking like a complete fantasy.

Different teachers and schools will have different comfort levels about how far to push these grades. Some would have actually been professional and given accurate grades, so that’s another reason why teacher and institution grades aren’t a great way of awarding results.

However, the strength of this system is that even if teachers have exaggerated results, they should have exaggerated them in line with their perceived effort and ability of their pupils, so at least it takes into account these individual level factors.

Enter the algorithm

Hence why the exams authority moderated the results – they know there is bias between institutions. And at the end of the day, we’ve ended up with overall results which are slightly better than previous years, which seams, on average, a fair way to do it.

By the logic of an algorithm which works on averages, that is fair – for this year’s students, on average, to come out with slightly better results.

Assuming the algorithm has tweaked all the students results in one institution across all subjects to the same degree, we should have fair individual level results too.

The problem

In a nutshell, it’s cases like these….

As I understand it the problem is that some schools especially have been penalised more than others, especially rapidly improving schools, and any school where the teachers have been stupid enough to be honest about predicted grades, their pupils would have lost out massively too.

I’m not sure how representative these case studies are, TBH I think they’re in a minority, but honestly, it’s not great for those students involved!

Winners and losers from the cancellation of A-level exams

The evidence suggests that if you’re white and middle class you’ll do OK out of A-levels being cancelled, not so if you’re BAME or poor.

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.

The winners

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!

In general I’d say that the next two months of A-level teaching are actually the most pointless thing in terms of useful skills and knowledge – you would have literally spent two months cramming knowledge into your head and learning exam technique, both skills being utterly useless in any real life content, work or otherwise.

You’ve been spared that, however….

The losers

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.

Conclusions

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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