Coronavirus: 2020 exam standardisation process will ignore school 'trajectory', Ofqual confirms

The “trajectory” of improving schools will not be taken into account when standardising GCSE and A-level results this year, Ofqual has confirmed.

The exams regulator said today that the standardisation process for centre-assessed grades this year “will not seek to reflect any trends in improvement or deterioration in a centre’s outcomes in a subject over previous years”.

Following the cancellation of GCSE and A-level exams this year, pupils will be awarded grades by their schools this year, which will then be standardised by exam boards.

Launching its consultation on the process earlier this year, Ofqual expressed “reservations” about the idea of taking recent improvement or deterioration of individual schools into account during the standardisation process.

And in its response to the consultation, released today, the regulator said it would proceed with plans to ignore them.

“While we recognise that it would be desirable if it were possible accurately to reflect centre trajectory in the issued calculated grades, we remain of the view that the lack of stability over a 3-year period in improvements or deteriorations in performance for the overwhelming majority of centres means that any statistical model is likely to be unacceptably unreliable in predicting trends in performance in 2020.”

The matter divided opinion among respondents to Ofqual’s consultation, with only 45 per cent agreeing with Ofqual’s stance, and 27 per cent objecting. Twenty-nine per cent said they neither agreed nor disagreed.

The regulator has also announced it place more weight on historical evidence of centre performance than submitted centre assessment grades “where that will increase the likelihood of students getting the grades that they would most likely have achieved had they been able to complete their assessments in summer 2020”.

It comes after respondents “raised a range of concerns” including that such an approach would be unfair to students who may have excelled this year and whose grades would be affected by the poor performance of their predecessors.

However, Ofqual said this underlined the importance of the autumn examination series “as an opportunity for students disappointed with their results to show what they can do”.

“We believe, however, that placing more weight on centre assessment grades would be less likely to ensure that a consistent standard is applied across centres and so would be less likely to be fair to students overall.”

Ofqual has also decided to proceed with its proposal that exam boards will only have to consider appeals submitted by schools, not by individual pupils.

There will also be no providion for appeals “in respect of the operation or outcome of the statistical standardisation model”.

However, the regulator is also investigating whether it might be possible and appropriate to allow for appeals on that basis “where there is reliable evidence of a significant demographic difference between the centre’s cohort and the historical data used for statistical standardisation”.

It follows concerns that certain ethnic minority groups would suffer as a result of unconscious bias among teachers.

Sally Collier, chief regulator at Ofqual, said: “In the unprecedented circumstances we face this summer, these exceptional arrangements are the fairest way of making sure students have the grades they need in time to progress to further study or employment.”