A-Level results: A third of ours were downgraded, says Scarborough Sixth Form College Principal Phil Rumsey

Scarborough Sixth Form College’s principal is joining calls for a Government U-turn on A-level grades.

Friday, 14th August 2020, 1:21 pm
Updated Friday, 14th August 2020, 1:32 pm

Phil Rumsey says giving young people the results they were predicted is the fairest way to provide this year’s results after exams were cancelled because of the pandemic.

“After the last six months and the effects the lockdown has had on so many young people's mental health, knocking them further is surely wrong and the Government must act quickly to address this,” he said.

“After all, not sitting their exams was not their choice and the majority would have preferred to have done so.”

Gavin Williamson, left, visits his old college - Scarborough Sixth Form - last year, pictured with Phil Rumsey, right, and MP Robert Goodwill.

This year’s results have been decided by a statistical model developed by exams regulator Ofqual which includes factors such as the ranking order of pupils and the previous exam results of schools and colleges.

Around a third of the college’s pupils’ grades were downgraded from what teachers had predicted, compared to 40 per cent nationally.

While most of the college’s students were accepted by their first-choice university on results day - despite some being two or three grades below their offer - Mr Rumsey said young people still want the grades they deserve reinstated “as they stay with them for life”.

Scarborough Sixth Form College

He said for the minority whose first-choice destination was not possible, support continues to be given by the college to find an alternative.

The Sixth Form Colleges’ Association is lobbying Education Secretary Gavin Williamson - himself a former Scarborough Sixth Form College student - and Ofqual to reinstate the students’ predicted grades, as has been done in Scotland.

“Had all students been affected equally, the moving down of grades to avoid grade inflation might be justifiable despite still resulting in some individuals being adversely affected,” he said.

“However, we learnt that despite the downgrading of the Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs), the percentage of students achieving A* or A went up 4.7 per cent in independent school sixth forms but only 0.3 per cent in sixth form colleges.

“This means there is a clear inequality nationally where children from more affluent families have seen significantly bigger increases in their top grades.

“This is clearly indefensible and not dissimilar to the problem in Scotland, and as such, the only fair outcome is to reinstate the CAGs for all students in England.

“Yes, this means for this one year group there would be some grade inflation of around 12 per cent but what matters more - students receiving incorrect grades and missing university places or no student being downgraded but some ending up with slightly higher grades?”

Mr Rumsey also criticised the Government’s current appeal policy, which sees students who performed better in their mock exams able to use these results to appeal their grades.

Mr Rumsey said: “In reality, mock exams had not been done by all schools and colleges at the time of lockdown, and those that had done them had done what suited their students.

“This means that using mock exams would create further inequality and therefore lead to further dissatisfaction amongst students.

“How, and indeed if, students might be able to appeal using their mock exam is due to be released by Ofqual early next week.

"Until then, students are left confused about the appeals process and in limbo trying to balance securing their first choice university place against settling for their second choice versus trying to secure a higher final grade.

“It is bad enough that this year group have been so adversely affected but to go into A-level results day without a clear direction on how to appeal grades is simply unacceptable and will no doubt cause further anxiety for those students.”

He said once Ofqual publish guidance on how mock exams can be used to appeal, the college will contact any student affected and put those appeals forward at the earliest opportunity.

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