Pupils 'are caught in the Covid crossfire', says top head as A-level results collected

Pupils 'are caught in the Covid crossfire', says top head as A-level results collected

By Adele Forrest | 13/08/2020

Pupils 'are caught in the Covid crossfire', says top head as A-level results collected
Top performers at Wales High (Left to right): Hannah Jones, Eleanor Chesterton and Hannah Parker


STUDENTS sitting exams this year have been caught in the “Covid crossfire”, says a headteacher.

A-level students across the country are today picking up their results — or receiving them online due to the pandemic.

Wales High headteacher Pepe Di’iasio said he had encouraged the school’s 130 sixth formers to attend in person so that support and guidance could be given.

Mr Di’iasio said it had been a “really strange time” and an “incredibly tough year” for students, who had missed out on rites of passage like the school prom.

Looking back to March, he said: “Students were just about to take exams and then we were told a few days before they wouldn’t be.”

Instead of sitting exams, students have been given centre-assessed grades, taking into account teachers’ assessments and class rankings. A student’s prior attainment — GCSE results for those taking A-levels, and Sats for those taking GCSEs — and their school’s performance in recent years will also be considered.

Ofqual — the exams regulator in England — performed a “standardisation” process, whereby a computer algorithm decided how accurate the centre-assessed grade was.

Mr Di’iasio said it was likely the algorithm would have adjusted results downwards, adding: “The Government has said they want to see this year’s results be similar to last year’s.”

He said this attempt to make results “valid and fair” may not feel that way for students.

“It’s still up in the air what’s going to happen,” he said. “We have done all we can to make students well prepared.”

Critics have claimed teachers will have an unconscious bias towards students when it comes to ranking — but Mr Di’iasio said students should not be worried about that. “I don’t think the ranking will have that big of an effect in terms of the algorithm filters.”

A-level and GCSE students can resit exams in the autumn, but Mr Di’iasio said teenagers who had started university courses or apprenticeships might not want to revisit them.

He added: “Students are also allowed to request their centre-assessed grade if they feel they would like to look at an appeal or query why they have got the grades they have.”

The headteacher, who is also RMBC’s assistant director for education, said he didn’t believe the Government could have come up with a better system.

He said: “It’s as fair a system in a difficult situation you could come up with. I’ve not heard anyone else come up with a better solution. This is as fair as you could be.

“However, we do feel that students have been caught in the crossfire of Covid.”

It has been reported that nearly 300,000 A-levels and close to two million GCSEs will be issued at a lower grade than the teacher assessment.

In Scotland, wherea similar moderation method was used, students from richer areas saw predicted grades reduced by seven percentage
points; in the poorer areas they were reduced by 15 per cent.

Sarah Champion said she was concerned the model favoured schools with “better off pupils”.

The Rotherham MP added: “It should be a priority for the Government to ensure that pupils get fair exam results regardless of how much their parents

“If the faults in the Scottish exam results are repeated in England it will be young people in  Rotherham and places like it that feel
the effects of this unjust process on their opportunities in the future.”

Following an outcry from pupils, the Scottish government apologised and agreed to upgrade tens of thousands of grades by accepting teacher estimates

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