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‘Disgraceful’ - teachers and students unhappy at downgraded A-levels

PUBLISHED: 15:04 13 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:59 14 August 2020

There was an outcry after A-Level students recieved downgraded results. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

There was an outcry after A-Level students recieved downgraded results. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Teachers and students have hit out after seeing A-level results downgraded after this year’s exams were cancelled because of coronavirus.

City College Norwich will sponsor the special debate. Picture: TEN GroupCity College Norwich will sponsor the special debate. Picture: TEN Group

The proportion of A-level entries awarded an A grade or higher has risen to an all-time high, with 27.9% securing the top grades this year, figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland show.

But exam boards downgraded nearly two in five (39.1pc) pupils’ grades in England, according to data from Ofqual

Thirty six per cent of students had a lower grade than teachers predicted and three per cent were down two grades.

Teachers 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 the pandemic.

MORE: A-level results 2020: Live list of results from Norfolk and Waveney

Exam boards moderated these grades to ensure this year’s results were not significantly higher than previously and the value of students’ grades were not undermined.

Taverham High School headteacher Carol Dallas. 
Picture: Antony KellyTaverham High School headteacher Carol Dallas. Picture: Antony Kelly

But the results have left some Norfolk teachers furious their grading has been changed and their unhappy students facing agonising waits for appeals and clearing to gain a place at university.

Danielle Standley, who teaches A-level drama at City College Norwich, said: “Only two out of my current cohort retained the grades I had given. The rest were downgraded by one grade so that the entire grading exactly matched that of last year. This is ridiculous in the extreme.

“It’s disgraceful and really lazy by the exam boards who have relied on last year’s data for this year’s cohort.

“Obviously I have been talking to colleagues from different institutions in Norfolk; one colleague had given a student an E grade because he was absolutely certain that this student would not attain higher. The grade was upgraded to a D so that my colleague’s grades matched those of last year too.”

Unhappy student Holly Jex said she was “outraged” at how her results had been marked.

A third of students have seen A-Level results downgraded. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA WireA third of students have seen A-Level results downgraded. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

She said: “All throughout my second year of my Drama and Theatre A-level, I was getting A’s and B’s and in my practical performances, which accounted for two thirds of my grade, I was given two B grades. In my results today, I received a D grade.

“My lecturer informed us that we were seemingly given the grades that the previous year of A2 students had received on their results day. This seems completely unfair to me and the rest of my group as it is not the grades we deserve on our own merit, and all of our hard work through the year has now gone to waste.”

MORE: Students face A-level results ‘confusion’ following last-minute changes

Schools across Norfolk are preparing to help students who have received lower than expected grades.

Carol Dallas, headteacher at Taverham High School, said: “We have some individuals who have been disadvantaged by the methodology the exam board has used to standardise results and will do everything possible to appeal these decisions to ensure fair results are allocated in all cases.”

Liz Wood, headteacher at Sprowston Community Academy, said: “We have chosen not to publish our overall figure as we pursue some appeals on behalf of some students whose results do not fully reflect their ability and hard work.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. Picture: Archant LibraryGeoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. Picture: Archant Library

“We are, however, reassured that the vast majority of our students have achieved the destinations that they wanted and deserve in these unique times.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), and a former headteacher from Bury St Edmunds, said: “While there has been an overall increase in top grades, we are very concerned that this disguises a great deal of volatility among the results at school and student level.

“We have received heartbreaking feedback from school leaders about grades being pulled down in a way that they feel to be utterly unfair and unfathomable. They are extremely concerned about the detrimental impact on their students.”

He added that school leaders are “dismayed” that the statistical model used to standardise grades has had a “devastating impact.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said the “majority of young people will have received a calculated grade today that enables them to progress to the destination they deserve, with the added safety net of being able to appeal on the basis of their mock results, as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams”.

Byron Collins who saw his A-level results downgraded. Picture: Simon ParkinByron Collins who saw his A-level results downgraded. Picture: Simon Parkin

However the Sixth Form Colleges Association has called the system for calculating A-level grades, “flawed and unreliable” after almost all colleges said grades were lower or much lower than predicted.

MORE: A-levels 2020: Explaining ‘triple lock’ solution to exams chaos

Ms Standley said teachers had taken grading decisions seriously and many felt their views had been ignored for a “flawed” model.

She said: “I was very cautious and really agonised over the grades I gave, but none of that is what has happened.

“I have to ask the question: why bother consulting teachers at all? Why not just tell us that they were going to do that?”

There was “deep frustration” in schools about the confusion caused by late changes to the results system, including the use of mock grades, said Mr Barton.

Ms Standley added: “The whole government announcement over the ‘triple lock’ is clearly just another knee jerk reaction.

“Students who don’t excel at written work or didn’t take their mock exams seriously are going to really struggle.”

‘I’m livid’ - student sees grades lower than expected

Byron Collins, 18, is facing the uncertainty of the clearring system after seeing his grades fall short of what was required for his first choice university.

The Norwich School student collected the results of his philosophy, history and politics but was left disappointed by his results.

He said: “I’m absolutely livid with what has happened. I’ve been marked down in two grades from the mock results. It makes no sense.

“I will be appealing one grade for sure and means I don’t have what I need to go to Warwick University, so I’ll have to go through clearing and hope I still get a place.”

He said students had been left in a state of confusion over the summer by changes to how grades would be worked out.

“No-one knew what was going to happen,” he said. “It’s been total confusion.”


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