Robert Halfon ‘worried’ about fairness of A-level results algorithm

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Robert Halfon ‘worried’ about fairness of A-level results algorithm

Tory MP concerned data shows pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds were penalised by moderating system

Robert Halfon
Robert Halfon

Tory MP Robert Halfon said he was “worried” some figures suggest A-level pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds were penalised by the way grades were moderated this year.

Scores submitted by teachers in the wake of cancelled papers were moderated to ensure results were not significantly higher. But figures revealed close to 40 percent of teachers’ estimates in England were marked down, sparking calls for a review.

Halfon, who is Jewish and chairs the House of Commons education committee, urged Ofqual to publish details of the algorithm it used to make its calculations.

“I am worried about it because some figures suggest that disadvantaged students have been penalised again,” he told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One on Friday.

He said: “I am also worried about further education colleges because they have been improving in recent years and yet they seem also to have suffered under this grading system.

“If the model has appealed disadvantaged groups this is very serious and if it has disadvantaged colleges that has to be looked at. Ofqual will have to adjust the grades.”

Halfon, who represents Harlow, said the appeals system needed to be broadened so that every student who felt they had lost out could use it.

“We have to have a wider appeals system, a quick appeals system that is for everyone, not just the sharp-elbowed and well-heeled,” he said.

On Thursday, the system came under sharp criticism from Kantor King Solomon High School’s headteacher, who said it had “robbed” pupils of a chance to show what they had learnt.

Hannele Reece, who heads the modern Orthodox comprehensive in Barkingside, said she remains “disappointed that the cancellation of examinations has led to a system that robs our students of the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learnt.”

She said the “debacle around the way students’ results have been calculated has led to a situation where students are judged on the basis of a moderation system that has not seen any of their work.”

“Having already coped with the challenges of Covid-19 and unprecedented school closures they are now being asked to accept results that may determine their futures on the basis of a statistical exercise,” she added.

But some Jewish schools reported “excellent” results, with nearly half (49 percent) of all JCoSS grades between A* and A.

A total of 78 percent of grades were between A* and B, the Hertfordshire school said.

Headteacher Patrick Moriarty said: ‘This cohort have faced exceptional challenges and disruption to the end of their schooling, and we are both relieved and delighted that these excellent results recognise their huge strengths.

“I salute the unstinting hard work done by them, their teachers and, given the strains of the past 6 months, their parents also.”

Immanuel College, meanwhile, reported 87 percent of grades were between A* and B, with 31 percent of A*s.

Headteacher Gary Griffin said he was “delighted” for students, who “worked so diligently and effectively over their two years in the sixth form and have faced a period of great uncertainty in recent months, as a result of the pandemic.”

Close to a third of Yavneh College pupils (31 percent) achieved all A or A*, with 100 percent of grades between A* and C.

89 percent of grades were between A* and B, the school said.

Executive headteacher Spencer Lewis said:“Students did not get the opportunity to sit their exams and show what they are capable of. They had worked so hard and they were very disappointed.

“Of course, Covid -19 has changed the way in which we all look at things and the students have accepted things with good grace and a smile.”

Meanwhile, JFS reported a quarter of grades were marked down, suggesting the discrepancy to be significantly less than national figures.

One third of students obtained all A* and A grades. Over half of grades were between A* and A, while 77. 3 percent were between A* and B.

Fourteen JFS high-flyers secured places at Oxbridge colleges with a further six students accepted to medical school.

Headteacher Rachel Fink praised “all our students who have coped superbly with the huge uncertainties as a result of COVID-19.”

“Our staff have shown huge commitment to our students and have demonstrated that they know them well,” she said.

Hasmonean said “the vast majority of students” got the grades they needed  to enter university, or continue pursuing their career paths.

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