Exam board ‘proposed algorithm – then raised concerns about it’

An exam board which revealed that it warned ministers of flaws with the ill-fated algorithm had actually proposed the approach adopted by the regulator in the first place.

Cambridge Assessment, which runs exam board OCR, had originally submitted the direct centre performance (DCP) model that was chosen and then developed by Ofqual as its algorithm for the awarding of calculated grades.

I could not understand why Cambridge Assessment were criticising the model to ministers, when they proposed it

The admission comes amid a continuing blame game following this summer’s results fiasco. CA said that it had warned the government about flaws with the algorithm two weeks before the A-level results were published.

In a submission to the education select committee hearing last week, CA also said that it had warned the regulator of problems with the grading model the day after the A-level results were released. It said Ofqual should have delayed and rerun GCSE results, which were due to be released the following week.

An Ofqual spokesperson called the CA comments “astonishing”, adding that the organisation were “totally key to the development, testing and quality assurance of the algorithm right from the beginning”.

Following the new disclosure, a member of Ofqual’s exam advisory group has now questioned CA’s motive behind the criticism.

Professor Jo-Anne Baird, director of the University of Oxford’s department of education, told Schools Week: “I could not understand why Cambridge Assessment were criticising the model to ministers, when they proposed it and it predicted the grades best in the modelling that was conducted.”

A CA spokesperson said they had submitted various approaches, of which DCP was just one, to Ofqual. The regulator had considered 12 different approaches before choosing to go with DCP.

They added: “We put forward suggestions to ease computational transparency and public explanation, and some of these were adopted.

“Ultimately, Ofqual developed a model based on a wide range of input and provided a comprehensive summary of the decisions it took in its recent technical report.”

A spokesperson for the regulator said that it asked all exam boards to “put forward some proposed approaches” and that while “elements of the final approach” were based on suggestions from Cambridge Assessment, “this was only part of the approach that we took”.

CA and OCR were also part of the technical group that “reviewed aspects of the model”, and CA had a representative on the advisory group.

 

Regulator reneges on promise to publish communications

Ofqual chair Roger Taylor promised MPs the regulator would “publish all the communications and minutes” of meetings they had with Department for Education.

But the regulator has now said the DfE must be asked to release the correspondence as they arranged the meetings and recorded minutes.

They also claimed that a paper prepared for a briefing with the number 10 policy unit on August 7 was “written by the DfE, therefore the committee should approach DfE regarding these documents”.

Despite promises to be more transparent, Ofqual has also refused to confirm to Schools Week how many times it met with number 10.

Prime minister Boris Johnson last week dodged questions on when he first knew of the grading flaws.

Ofqual will publish long overdue board minutes later this month.