Scarborough Sixth Form College boss welcomes U-turn on A-Level grades

The head of the Scarborough college where Education Secretary Gavin Williamson studied has welcomed the Government’s U-turn on A-levels.

By Sarah Fitton
Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 5:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th August 2020, 5:50 pm

Principal of Scarborough Sixth Form College Phil Rumsey says he is “delighted” that students will receive teacher-assessed grades rather than those produced by an algorithm.

“This means that many of our students will now have the grades they deserve and that will stay with them for life,” he said.

“Those that missed out on their first choice university place but would now have the grades to have secured it, can contact the university to request their place.

Sign up to our daily The Scarborough News Today newsletter

Scarborough Sixth Form College

“Whilst there is no guarantee, the Government’s decision to remove the cap on numbers this year should help.

“Thankfully, this didn’t affect many of our students.

“There will still be some students who feel they could have achieved higher grades than the centre awarded and they now have the option of sitting an exam in October if they wish.”

Phil Rumsey

Gavin Williamson - who is a former student of Scarborough Sixth Form College - is facing calls to resign over his handling of this year’s A-level results.

Grades - announced last Thursday - had been decided by a statistical model developed by exams regulator Ofqual.

But there was outcry when it was revealed that nationally 40 per cent of pupils’ results had been downgraded and concerns that disadvantaged pupils had been unfairly penalised.

Following lobbying from education establishments and protests, the Government announced yesterday that teacher-assessed grades will be given for this year’s A-levels and GCSEs, which are announced this Thursday.

The row has caused chaos for students and universities trying to make arrangements for next month.

Mr Rumsey said Mr Williamson and his colleagues should have consulted the education sector.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing but yet again we see MPs and Government making decisions without consulting the professionals,” he said.

“As soon as we were informed of the use of the algorithm for cohorts of 15 or more but to keep centre assessed grades for cohorts of five or fewer, it was obvious it would create an unintended bias towards independent school sixth forms who have smaller classes.

“Had the secretary of state asked any school leader in the country about the possibility of using mock exams to appeal results, he would have been presented with an immediate and obvious set of reasons why this was a non-starter.

“To put this in context for our students and those up and down the country, the mistakes the government made were the same as are too often the case.

“The use of the algorithm in itself wasn’t the issue, it was done with good intentions to avoid grade inflation and looked like a sensible idea.

“The problem was that the exam boards had the results weeks before they were published, so Ofqual should have run the algorithm and asked a small cross section of education leaders and statisticians to analyse the results and pick out any problems.

“They would then have had time to correct these issues or, if that wasn’t possible, decide to revert to centre assessed grades but, crucially, before A-level results day.

“This would have avoided the unnecessary mess and confusion that students suffered from Thursday to Monday.

“The final solution is not a perfect one but when you are dealing with people, no computer algorithm can get it correct and some flexibility is required.

“So the important message now is not to talk of ‘inflated grades’ as teachers are professional and have derived grades with integrity but to talk about the fantastic successes our students deserve after two years of hard work.

“It is not their fault that schools and colleges had to close abruptly in March so they shouldn’t suffer and if that means the number of top grades increases for one year, I think that’s a small price to pay in ensuring the future prospects and mental health of this badly affected year group.

“Thankfully, the Year 11 students collecting their GCSE results on Thursday will not suffer the same confusion.

“This year has been unprecedented and it is too easy to criticise decisions taken along the way as we will never know any alternatives.

“Without the exams, it was always going to be a near-impossible task to correctly predict students’ outcomes as every year there are surprises and disappointment for some on results day.

“Perhaps, just maybe, this is the point at which Government ministers will realise that before they make decisions that affect the young people of this country, they should consult the professionals first!”

A message from the editor

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the highest standards in the world. The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers and consequently the advertising that we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news by buying a copy of our newspaper.

Thank you

Jean MacQuarrie