A-level results 2022

School leaders form pact not to show off A-level results

Some trust and school chiefs are avoiding 'tempting' PR about A-level and GCSE grades, warning Covid makes comparisons 'ridiculous'

Some trust and school chiefs are avoiding 'tempting' PR about A-level and GCSE grades, warning Covid makes comparisons 'ridiculous'

19 Aug 2022, 12:01

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Some trust and school chiefs avoided 'tempting' PR about top A-level grades, warning Covid makes comparing schools or years 'ridiculous'

Dozens of school leaders have agreed to stay tight-lipped over their A-level and GCSE results, warning against “futile and potentially damaging” comparisons given Covid upheaval.

Results days for A-levels, GCSEs and vocational and technical qualifications often see schools and trusts sharing performance statistics that celebrate their success, with many doing so this week.

But 2022 has also seen more shun such PR or share only several pupils’ stories instead. Some have even made county-wide pledges to do so this week and next, to prevent any school gaining from others’ silence.

School-by-school comparisons ‘ridiculous’

Caroline Derbyshire
Caroline Derbyshire

Caroline Derbyshire, chief executive of the Saffron Academy Trust, said she was proud that the Association of Secondary Headteachers in Essex were “sticking to our agreement only to celebrate the achievements of individual young people tomorrow”.

They have chosen “not to encourage comparisons between schools”, according to Derbyshire, also chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable. “[I] wish all schools took this same stance this year and every year,” she wrote on social media.

She told Schools Week ASHE included the heads of all 90 secondaries in the south-east county.

Comparisons seem “ridiculous” when some children have had “long periods without a teacher, or been off themselves repeatedly”.

While sharing performance is “tempting when you do well”, a sense among schools that “we’re all in it together” made the agreement possible, she said. “To have a whole group do it is powerful.”

Jim Adams, chief executive of the Clarion Academy Trust and vice-chair for secondaries at Educate Norfolk, which represents regional school leaders, said a similar agreement had been made across their county – for both A-levels and GCSEs.

Year-on-year comparisons also ‘not appropriate’

In Wiltshire, Malmesbury School’s headteacher Brett Jouny said more than 90 per cent of students had been “accepted into their intended destinations”, but did not share more detailed performance data.

“In agreement with colleagues in other schools locally and nationally, we believe it is not appropriate to compare these results to previous years due to the nature of the grading arrangements used by the exam boards in this first post-pandemic set of examination results.”

This year saw a deliberate effort to issue less generous grades after last year’s record-breaking results under teacher-assessed grades.

“It is also not appropriate to compare the results of one school to another due to the uneven impact of Covid-related staff and student absences,” Jouny added.

‘Young people do better when schools collaborate’

A-level results
Jonny Uttley

In Yorkshire and the Humber, Jonny Uttley, chief executive of the Education Alliance said he was pleased at the number of schools celebrating individual student stories – rather than “the nonsense of publishing out of context attainment data and competing with other schools”.

The leader, recently elected as a regional adviser to the Department for Education, said his trust would not share its overall grades with the media.

In a widely shared post on Twitter, he highlighted variation in not only infection and self-isolation rates, but also resources pupils had at home during lockdowns.

“We, along with very many other trusts, will not participate in such a futile and potentially damaging exercise. What the last two years have taught us is that young people do better when schools collaborate, not when they compete.”

In Warwickshire, Higham Lane School also told Coventry Live: “Given the disruption caused over the past two years by the pandemic, we will not be sharing our school’s 2022 A-level results or highlighting individual student performances this year in the way we normally would.”

The academy, reported to have enjoyed the best results in Nuneaton in previous years, added: “Our focus at this time will be on supporting our students and doing everything we can to ensure that they progress to the next stage of their education, training or employment.”

A-level students not ‘content for PR blitz’

Staff unions expressed similar views.

teacher training Williamson NASUWT A-level results
Patrick Roach

Geoff Barton, general secretary of school and college leaders union ASCL, said it was “important that we focus on supporting the progression of students rather than fixating too much on grades”.

Despite exam adaptations intended to mitigate disruption, Covid’s “highly variable” impact makes it “not a normal year by any measure”.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of teaching union NASUWT, said year-on-year comparisons would be “wrong and wholly inaccurate”, given the “uniquely challenging circumstances”.

Exams regulator Ofqual and admissions body UCAS also said last week year-on-year comparisons were “not meaningful”.

But the government still plans to publish “important” key stage four performance data later this year, albeit with accompanying warning messages and a new name for its “Compare School and College Performance” website.

While some schools limited themselves to only sharing individual pupils’ stories, this too has faced criticism.

Michael Merrick, executive headteacher at the primary-only St Ninian Catholic Federation, said too many institutions were “dining off” pupils’ results – saying students should not be “content for your social media PR blitz” and “origin-story against-the-odds case studies”.

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