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Evidence mounts of systemic failings in calculating A level grades

Evidence mounts of systemic failings in calculating A level grades

New analysis from the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA) provides further evidence of failings in the statistical model used to calculate A level results this year.

SFCA analysed 65,000 exam entries in 41 A level subjects. Overall, the grades awarded to students this year were lower in all 41 subjects than they were for the average of the previous three years.

This shows that the statistical model developed by Ofqual, the exams regulator, has failed to meet one of its fundamental objectives “to ensure national results are broadly similar to previous years”. Our analysis shows that for sixth form colleges, the model has not only failed to produce “broadly similar” results, but has in fact produced worse results in every single subject. 

We find that on average, almost a fifth of students (19%) in sixth form colleges have been left with lower grades than they would have received if they had sat their exams in previous years.

This new data supports the findings of a survey published by SFCA on Thursday morning that found exam results for this year were below, and in some cases dramatically below, their historic exam performance. Some sixth form colleges reported that their exam results were the worst since records began, while others indicated that this year’s grades had reversed a trend of year on year improvement in performance.

Commenting on the survey findings, Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said:

“Our latest analysis provides further evidence that the government’s model for calculating A level grades has failed to do so accurately for many young people, particularly those in larger institutions. The priority now is to correct this problem with immediate effect. There simply isn’t time to conduct a wholesale review of the system, or to force colleges and schools through thesort of appeals process envisaged by the government. As each day passes, the strain on students increases and more young people miss out on their chosen university or employment destination. 

“Ofqual should therefore immediately recalibrate and rerun the model to provide all students with an accurate grade, and provide an assurance that this will be no lower than the calculated grade they have already received. Should this still fail to produce results that are broadly similar to previous years, students should be awarded the grades predicted by teachers (known as centre assessed grades).”

More information

  1. The Sixth Form Colleges Association is the established voice of dedicated sixth form education and the hub of a national network of sixth form providers.
  2. Copies of today’s analysis can be downloaded from the SFCA website here. The analysis was based on 65,050 enrolments in 41 A level subjects taken in 38 sixth form colleges. As a value added analysis, it adjusts for the GCSE results of students taking A levels to ensure a like-with-like comparison
  3. Copies of the survey report published on Thursday can be found here.
  4. Our members deliver a quarter of the A levels sat in England each year.
  5. For more information please contact James Kewin at the Sixth Form Colleges Association: 07887 990120
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