Thousands of students are at risk of missing out on university places after almost 2 in every five A Level results has been downgraded by the Government. Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield and Shadow Minister for Apprenticeships & Lifelong Learning, has called this a “huge injustice” that is likely to have a higher impact on students from the poorest backgrounds.
Toby said, “This time of year is already full of anxiety for students and their parents and the shambolic approach from the Government over the last week has just added to the stress. There is clearly major fault with the algorithm the Government have landed on if almost 40% of grades have been downgraded. We are seeing straight-A students, who have always been assessed at this level, suddenly seeing lower final grades. The Government made changes to the system just a few days ago to say students could have their mock results instead, but this is a poor and inadequate fix as mock exams vary greatly between schools and students much more likely to underperform in a mock than their final exam”
Official figures published by Ofqual show that, in England, 35.6% of the predicted awards given out today were adjusted down by one grade, while 3.3% were brought down by two grades and 0.2% came down by three grades. The stats also show that pupils achieving grade C or above was downgraded from teacher estimations by just over 10% for children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, compared to just over 8% students from more affluent families. There has also been a notable discrepancy between the increase in A & A* grades for private schools and their counterparts in secondary schools or colleges. The number of private school pupils achieving A or A* has increased by almost 5%, more than double the 2% increase seen in secondary state schools and more than 10 times the increase seen in sixth-form colleges, which saw an increase of just 0.3%.
The Labour Party is now calling for a move back to teacher assessed grades for students who were downgraded. The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said, “The unprecedented and chaotic circumstances created by the UK government’s mishandling of education during recent months mean that a return to teacher assessments is now the best option available. No young person should be at a detriment due to government incompetence.”
Toby added, “Much of this mess could have been avoided if it wasn’t for the disastrous education reforms brought in by the Tories a few years ago. They took away AS levels and coursework-based assessment, which provided a regular record of the student’s true capabilities and attainment levels, and could have allowed a clearer grade to be awarded now. Teachers, unions and Labour MPs warned about the downsides of their reforms, but we were ignored.
It is important to remember that the teachers and school heads are the people who know these students the best and the Government should be listening to them. I have now written to all local headteachers and principals to get a clear understanding of how Chesterfield’s students have been affected. I will be keen to ensure that the students from poorer backgrounds are also receiving the encouragement and support to challenge unfair grades.
I was contacted by my constituent, William Jenkinson, who was predicted straight As and had been accepted on to a course at Oxford – the only student in his year at his Chesterfield state school to be offered a place there – but William has had two of his grades downgraded to a B and his dreams of going to Oxford dashed by an unfair system weighted against him.
I have written Oxford urging them to allow William to still take up his place. But the best way to assure William can fulfil his dream is for the Government to acknowledge that they have got this wrong, and accept the teacher recommended grades”.
The Labour Party has launched a petition calling on the Government to urgently rethink their approach to these results and to “give young people a fair future”. People can sign the petition at https://action.labour.org.uk/page/s/a-level-results