Third of GCSE pupils are to get top grades: Government U-turn means 1.5million teenagers could get marks equivalent to the old-style A/A*
- Proportion with the equivalent of an A/A* is set to rise by almost 30 per cent
- Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is facing widespread calls to quit
- More than 1,000 pupils may get a clean sweep of A* equivalents for the first time
Almost one in three GCSE pupils could get top marks today following the exam U-turn fiasco.
The proportion with a grade 7 or higher – the equivalent of an old A/A* – is set to rise by almost 30 per cent due to the switch to teacher assessments.
This could mean 1.5million grade 7s, 8s and 9s awarded in England, with up to 1,000 pupils gaining a clean sweep of 9s for the first time. The surge comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson scrapped the controversial algorithm system for both A-level and GCSE results – and conceded teachers’ predicted grades must be used to mark pupils who could not sit their exams because of the pandemic.
It sparked chaos across universities as students originally told they had missed out on degree places frantically tried to get on to courses. A similar picture is expected in sixth forms and colleges today, with thousands more meeting Add-level entry requirements than previously anticipated.
With the proportion of A/A* equivalent grades set to rise by 30 per cent this year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is facing widespread calls for him to resign
Sixth forms are calling for extra funding from the Government, with some heads planning to recruit more teachers or ask staff to teach beyond their subject expertise to allow them to honour all offers made. Others may increase class sizes or run catch-up lessons for pupils whose marks do not match their actual abilities.Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the new system rewards pupils and schools where teachers ‘have over-estimated’. He added: ‘It is hard on those who have done their very best to predict accurately.
‘Young people will be getting the impression that they’re good at something when they’re actually not, so they may find they get on to do A-levels in tough subjects like physics or French or maths and then may not be able to cope with them.’ In July, exams watchdog Ofqual revealed early analysis of predicted GCSE grades submitted by teachers. It found 31.6 per cent of papers sat by 16-year-olds in England would be awarded a 7 or higher (an old A or A*) if these centre assessment grades were used. This compared to 24.7 per cent for this age group last year – a 28 per cent rise.
Union: Revamp 2021 test papers
GCSE and A-level examinations next summer should be overhauled with some topics made ‘optional’, a teaching union demanded yesterday.
The National Education Union called for ‘reduced content’ on test papers to help teachers deal with the impact of further virus outbreaks. And it demanded less reliance on end-of-year papers – because they make pupils ‘anxious’. Its joint general secretaries, Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, made the demands in a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson. They called for a ‘thorough, independent review into assessment methods used to award GCSE and A-level qualifications in England’.
Their letter adds: ‘The current over-reliance on end-of-course exams increases student anxiety.’
Under this teacher assessment system, 7.7 per cent of papers would get a top grade of 9. And 82.4 per cent would get at least a 4, equivalent to a C, Ofqual said.
At the time, the watchdog said the ‘vast majority of centres’ had ‘submitted optimistic centre assessment grades’. These were supposed to have been standardised by the algorithm to bring them in line with previous years. But the official results out today are expected to be broadly similar to these early Ofqual estimates.
Geoff Barton, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘Schools may, understandably, have given some students the benefit of the doubt when they are on the borderline between two grades.’
Students protested against hte GCSE and A-level results shambles that affects their futures
John Abbott, chief executive of the Richard Huish College in Somerset, said it is likely to have ‘more kids probably on the wrong course in September’. This is because they may have been given higher grades than they would have gained in exams or fallen behind during lockdown. Gill Burbridge, principal of Leyton Sixth Form College in east London, said honouring the offers it had made to almost 2,000 pupils would be a challenge. She added: ‘It is going to maybe require staff to be more flexible in terms of being able to teach across more than one area.’
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said ‘We have been pressing the Government to introduce a capital expansion fund for sixth form providers over the past couple of years, and action is now needed as a matter of urgency.’
The Department for Education said: ‘Our focus remains on working with Ofqual to ensure students receive their final GCSE, AS level and A-level results this week.’
Get schools open or go, Williamson told
By Claire Ellicott, Political Correspondent for the Daily Mail
Now BTECs will be regraded
More than 500,000 BTEC pupils expecting to receive their results today have been left disappointed – after a last-minute decision to regrade them.
The exam board wants more time to get the grading right following the overall exam fisaco. But colleges were only told of the move at 4.30pm yesterday – leaving them scrabbling to catch up.
BTEC colleges were not included in the Government’s original U-turn to award grades based on teacher assessments, rather than calculated by the algorithm.
Now exam body Pearson says it wants to ‘apply the same principles’ being used in A-levels and GCSEs. It is stripping out the parts of its grades that had been calculated by the algorithm using historical performance data – and using teachers’ predictions instead.
Gavin Williamson has been warned that schools must reopen smoothly in September – or he must go.
Government sources have indicated that Boris Johnson will not sack the Education Secretary, or demote him in a major reshuffle.
But senior backbenchers have told the whips’ office in private that Mr Williamson should be sacked following the exams fiasco.
It came as Mr Johnson’s lead fell to its lowest level since he became Prime Minister.
A YouGov poll for The Times found that support for the Conservatives has dropped four points to 40 per cent, while Labour has gained three points to 38 per cent in a week.
Tory MPs have warned that a failure to get all pupils back to school next month would represent ‘the final straw’ for Mr Williamson. One senior Tory said: ‘Gavin’s position is completely untenable and we need strong leadership in September, which he is singularly incapable of.’
Mr Williamson was also forced to bow to pressure and back Ofqual for the first time after being accused of playing a blame game.
He admitted that it was the regulator’s decision to abandon the grades determined by an algorithm and move to teacher assessments. The Department for Education said: ‘The decision [Ofqual] took to move from moderated grades to centre-assessed grades was one that we agreed with. Our focus remains on working with Ofqual to ensure students receive their final GCSE, AS-level and A-level results this week so that they can move on to the next stage of their lives.’
The admission will raise further questions over whether Mr Williamson was unaware of the scale of the problem or how the controversial algorithm would even work until the weekend.
Tory MPs have made representations to the whips’ office that Mr Williamson should leave his post now.
Boris Johnson intervened from Scotland to help resolve the results crisis. He is pictured above visiting an M&S store in Westfield, London
Tobias Ellwood, the defence committee chairman, said the Government should ‘reconfigure’ its top team and harness the ‘full talent’ available. And a former minister said: ‘There’s genuine anger now about how somebody like Gavin got [the job] in the first place.
‘There are questions of judgment about why Theresa May and then Boris Johnson promoted him. Somebody with more competence in the same job could’ve avoided all this.’
Durham: Defer by year and get a ‘cash reward’
By Josh White, Education Reporter for the Daily Mail
OFQUAL ‘knew algorithm was doomed to failure’
Watchdog Ofqual knew its algorithm was ‘doomed’ as far back as June but pressed ahead anyway, it was claimed last night.
An adviser who helped it develop the software said there was ‘always an understanding there would be winners and losers’.
Ofqual has always said its system was as ‘fair as possible’ – despite so many pupils’ marks being downgraded. But speaking on condition of anonymity, the adviser said it was evident that the algorithm would fail as soon as schools began submitting their teacher-assessed grades, between June 1 and 12.
‘There was a very specific point when it became doomed,’ he said. ‘There was clearly always a potential this could blow, because of the nature of it. There wasn’t really even a need to discuss that point, because it was always lingering in the background.’
Ofqual did not respond to a request for comment last night.
Durham last night became the first university to offer students cash rewards if they agreed to wait a year before enrolling.
The university made the announcement after it emerged 15,000 students are now eligible to switch back to their first-choice institution.
Durham’s offer will rile some struggling universities, whom it was last night said could face ‘financially crippling’ losses if students hold out for their first choice.
It is feared that increased numbers of students waiting a year to get into their first choice university, rather than downgrading to a less prestigious alternative this year, could cause a financial black hole for certain less popular institutions.
Durham University said ‘this unprecedented situation’ had lead to ‘various capacity issues, both in regard to teaching and accommodation’ and it warned ‘it is possible that some offer holders… will have to defer entry to 2021 in order to enrol’.
It told prospective undergraduates: ‘Students who opt to defer to 2021 will be guaranteed college accommodation in 2021 and will be provided with a bursary by Durham University to help with their transition to university life. Further details will follow shortly.’
Last night, Ucas said pupils who were originally rejected by their first-choice university could now claim a place with their updated grades.
The Russell Group of elite universities are likely to bear the brunt of these extra student numbers, putting pressure on staff to admit as many pupils as possible,
Last night, Dr Tim Bradshaw, CEO of the group, which includes Oxford and Cambridge, said ‘this is a stressful time for students and our admissions teams’.
‘We urge Government to provide guidance and support to help the sector deal with both the immediate and longer-term impact of an unprecedented rise in numbers,’ he said.
‘Many of our members are taking more students this year and have committed to honouring offers made, however constraints on capacity, teaching and support resources and the need to ensure universities operate in a Covid-safe way, mean some places may have to be deferred.’
Last night the Financial Times reported the Government was preparing to announce that the cap on medical student numbers would be lifted. They said extra cash would also be injected into the sector to help train them, as a result of the increased numbers now eligible to study after having their grades uplifted.
The British Medical Association’s Dr Helena McKeown said: ‘The UK is vastly short of doctors so increasing the number of medics in training makes sense, however this must be followed up with support and funding for both the universities sector and the NHS further down the line.’
Universities minister Michelle Donelan said: ‘We are workinge closely with the higher education sector to understand the challenges facing universities and provide as much support as we can.’
Medical Degree dream hangs by thread
Sosan Mirafgan’s dream of studying medicine still hangs in the balance
For Sosan Mirafgan, the dream of studying medicine still hangs in the balance.
The high-flying sixth form college pupil, 18, lost her place at Newcastle University following the grading fiasco.
Her teacher-predicted marks of Bs in biology and chemistry were downgraded to Cs, but she kept her A in maths. She contacted the university after the exams U-turn to ask if it will accept her now. But it said it was waiting for advice from the Medical Schools Council.
The industry body has said students hoping to study medicine and dentistry are in a ‘uniquely difficult situation’ because these courses have ‘tightly restricted entry numbers’ and have largely been filled. Sosan, who wants to be a brain surgeon, said: ‘The university said they may have to give us a place for next year. I’m still waiting and I’m nervous about what is going to happen.’
Sosan spoke no English when she arrived in 2012 as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan. Despite this, she achieved eight GCSEs ranging from 5s to 8s at Thornaby Academy in Stockton-on-Tees.
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