A-level grades could be ditched amid fears the surge in top marks makes results ‘meaningless’

The government is reportedly concerned with grade inflation

Joe Middleton
Wednesday 11 August 2021 00:01
<p>Students react after they receive their A-Level results at the Ark Academy, in London on Tuesday</p>

Students react after they receive their A-Level results at the Ark Academy, in London on Tuesday

A-levelgrades could be ditched under new government plans amid concerns that a year of high grades has meant the results are “meaningless”.

Almost half (44.8 per cent) of students were awarded an A or A* grade, which is almost double the amount who received the top marks in 2019 (25.5 per cent).

The Telegraph reports that the government is concerned with grade inflation and wants to replace the traditional A to E format with a new numerical system.

Neil Sheldon, a former chief examiner who worked for Ofqual, told the newspaper that the current method of assessment is coming close to a “free-for all”.

He said: “It doesn’t make sense to say 45 per cent of students are worth an A or A*. If you are trying to say that this is the same level of achievement as it was in 2019, it just isn’t true. It’s as simple and blunt as that.”

Mr Sheldon added that the teachers predictions that were used for students grades this year needed a form of standardisation or they would descend into “meaninglessness”.

A source at the Department for Education told The Telegraph that a “debate” was being had in government about how to deal with the issue of grade inflation.

The issue was also highlighted by Tory MP Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Committee, who said that grade inflation is “baked” into exam results due to the pandemic.

But the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, has defended this year’s results, as he called on people to celebrate young people’s success during a difficult year.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “These grades are absolutely worth so much, they are the key for those youngsters to take that next step.”

“But we do have to recognise that, as we come out of this pandemic, we will equally have to take steps and take a glide path back to a more normal state of affairs,” Mr Williamson added.

Last summer, the fiasco around grading led to thousands of A-level students having their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm before Ofqual announced a U-turn.

This year, no algorithm was used to moderate grades.

Instead, schools and colleges in England were asked to provide samples of student work to exam boards, as well as evidence used to determine the grades for the students selected, as part of quality assurance checks.

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