Inflation of A and GCSE levels is “inevitable in the English system” | Exams

School leaders and education experts have warned that the GCSE and A-level results this summer will see grade inflation levels similar to last year despite onerous measures imposed on teachers to try to make the system fair.

Teacher-assessed grades will replace exams in England this summer amid the fallout from mass school and college closures amid the Covid pandemic. But there are fears that schools with strong track records – such as independent schools and grammars – may benefit disproportionately, by submitting more generous grades that escape further scrutiny, while others that do. exercising caution could be the losers.

Teachers described having to complete multiple forms for each assessment of each student as part of a system of checks and balances to provide evidence and justify the marks awarded. Some schools have also decided to offer exams or simulations to help inform grades.

“The filling out of forms is seemingly endless,” said a teacher at a secondary school in north-west London whose pupils will be assessed on the basis of mock exams in March and further tests this month. “The stress right now for me is off the scale. The workload is sometimes unbearable.

Experts have warned, however, that grade inflation is inevitable, even with additional levels of control promised by qualifications regulator Ofqual, and they say another year of inflated results will make it harder to return to performance-related exams. pre-pandemic next year.

Last year, when the Department of Education scrapped its algorithm in favor of school-assessed grades, there was a 13 percentage point increase in A and A * grades awarded at A level.

“There is inevitably going to be a rating inflation in the system this summer. It’s not because teachers are cheaters, but because we are human and have been given an impossible task, ”said Stuart Lock, Managing Director of Advantage Schools in Bedford.

Teachers strive to assess, grade and moderate their students’ performance, but across the country various assessment methods are used in different schools, making it impossible to compare results across regions of the country. , according to reviews.

“The point of the system is that it should be the same at Hartlepool as at Penzance. It won’t and schools will be left to dry out, ”said Alan Brookes, president of the Kent Association of Head Teachers.

“If the grades are better than in previous years, it is the schools [Ofqual] will focus on, ”added Brookes. “If you’re a private school or a high school or a school in a leafy suburb, it’s a cycle that just keeps on waiting for higher grades and continuing to deliver similar grades.”

“The system is fraught with pitfalls,” added Sir Michael Wilshaw, the former director of Ofsted. “We know that teachers err on the side of generosity. They will always give young people the benefit of the doubt and there will be an inflation of marks. It’s a question of how much. I think we’ll see pretty much what we saw last year, which was 10% to 12% inflation somewhere in that region. “

Wilshaw said strong schools in well-run groups or academy trusts would have more robust assessment systems in place, with internal moderation. “The concern is where you have a school that struggles, a school with special measures, a school where there are a lot of inexperienced department heads. They would not have the experience necessary to moderate these judgments.

Schools and colleges must submit all grades by June 18. They will then be asked to provide samples of student work, along with the evidence used to determine grades.

“The work Ofqual has teachers do could make the system more valid and reliable,” Lock said, “but in my opinion, it won’t be any more valid or reliable. It’s not worth the job to be done. .

Richard Sheriff, the president of the Association of School and College Leaders, was more optimistic. “Teachers are developing a whole variety of assessments as part of a really robust system that hopefully can cope with excess grade inflation…

“The idea that it’s completely fair the other years is a myth. I don’t think it’s absolutely right before. I don’t think it will be absolutely fair this time around, but you have to trust the profession to do it right and people should back off.

A department head described a bureaucratic process that requires him to complete a departmental assessment file justifying each assessment, a teacher-assessed transcript form justifying each student’s grades, and a review form. Detailed moderation on how scores were decided for individual issues. .

He is also required to sign a document proving that he has read and understood the Joint Council’s guidelines for qualifications, as well as his school’s policy, which is 10 documents on its own.

“Our stress is that if our students do not reach the grade profile of their subject, if the grades are either too high or too low for school, it will again cause a mini-crisis,” he said. he declares.

A spokesperson for Ofqual said it was impossible to know the results ahead of time, but he had been “aware” of the teachers’ workload.

“It’s important that schools have evidence to support their judgments, and we’ve built flexibility into how schools and colleges will collect this evidence to determine student scores. It is also important that the quality of the review panels ensures these judgments so that there is as much consistency as possible, ”said the regulator.

“Where their overall results at GCSE or at level A are very different from those of recent years [2017-19], schools and colleges should record the probable reasons for this situation, as examination boards may request to consult them if the center is selected for external quality assurance. The centers with the most significant differences are more likely to be selected for quality assurance checks.

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