We cannot allow inequality to increase within the education system

Editorial: The worst outcome of failing to address ‘grade inflation’ could be the exams process becoming a further extension of the class system

Wednesday 11 August 2021 08:09

The proportion of A-level passes resulting in an A or A* grade is now up to almost 45 per cent, an increase on the already high 38 per cent share recorded in 2020, while the overall pass rate has fallen only marginally against the long-term trend – edging down from 99.7 per cent to 99.5 per cent in this summer’s non-exam assessments.

Of course, the results last year (even more chaotic) and this year are far from typical, and for obvious reasons. The Covid-19 crisis meant that there was no realistic chance of holding the usual round of examinations. Teacher assessments based on coursework and mock exams were the result. In 2020 there was a crude and sometimes eccentric control measure applied to the grading – the infamous algorithm – but this resulted in such unfairness that it had to be abandoned.

The result was a more orderly results process this time round, but one with an even greater degree of grade inflation. Through no fault of the teachers or pupils, Britain has entered into a phase of educational grade hyperinflation, in which there is no incentive for those involved to award cautious, conservative marks if they believe that others may not do so. This means that universities and prospective employers may have less of a clear idea of the relative merits of candidates.

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