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GCSE results 2021: Poor pupils fall further behind as inequalities exposed



Longstanding gaps between poorer pupils and their wealthier peers likely to achieve the top grades in GCSEs has widened, Ofqual has found.

The gap between pupils in private schools and their academy counterparts has grown by more than 6 percentage points, while Gypsy and Roma student have also fallen behind.

But the exams regulator warned it is “impossible” to work out whether this is because of Covid lost learning, or the use of teacher assessed grades over the last two years.

There were similar gaps exposed at A-level, too (read more on this here).

Ofqual researchers compared the performance of pupils with different characteristics – from ethnicity to free school meals eligibility – between 2018 and 2021.

We round up the “notable” changes from Ofqual’s equality analysis.

 

1. The poor v rich attainment gap has widened …

The gap between free school meal pupils and their peers has widened by 0.12 of a grade since 2019.

While looking solely at grades 7 and above, the gap widened by 2.27 percentage points over the last two years.

The increase in the gap was less severe at grade 4, at 1.31 percentage points.

 

2. … and private school pupils pull further ahead

Independent pupils have also pulled further ahead. The gap between private school pupils and those in academies who scored a grade 7 or above has widened by 6.79 percentage points since 2019. The difference is now 29 per cent, up from 22 per cent two years ago (see table below).

However the gap between these pupils achieving a grade 4 or above did narrow by 2.35 percentage points.

Interestingly, the top grades gap between pupils in academies and selective secondary schools narrowed – by 3.14 percentage points.

However Education Datalab has pointed out the Ofqual analysis seems to classify selective academies as academies (rather than selective schools) so this may skew things.

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3. Gypsy and Roma students fall behind

Ofqual also analysed the impact on different ethnicities, finding Gypsy and Roma youngsters had fallen particularly behind.

The gap between these pupils and white British students widened by 0.17 of a grade from 2019.

When looking at just the top grades, the gap grew by 2.29 percentage points. While at grade 4 and above, the gap between Gypsy and Roma students and Travellers of Irish Heritage when compared with white British pupils widened by 6.25 and 9.29 percentage points, respectively.

At grade 7 and up, the gap between white British pupils and their mixed white and black Caribbean  peers has widened by 2.13 percentage points.

4. Plus the SEND and gender gaps grow

At grade 7 and above, the gap between SEND pupils and their peers has grown by 2 percentage points since 2019.

Meanwhile, the gender gap between boys and girls achieving the top grades has widened by 2.13 percentage points. At grade 4, the gap has actually narrowed by 2.6 percentage points.

5. But why?

Ofqual has not provided a definite answer as to why these gaps have grown.

They say the changes could be “understood as the impact of the pandemic on students’ education and the impact of the change in assessment arrangements”, but the “two sources of impact are impossible of disentangle”.



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3 Comments

  1. Huy Duong

    Ofqual say the changes could be “understood as the impact of the pandemic on students’ education and the impact of the change in assessment arrangements”, and the “two sources of impact are impossible of disentangle”.

    The point of this year’s arrangements is to mitigate the impact of the different levels of learning loss experienced by different students. Since the end results is that private schools have pulled even further ahead, it seems that that goal has not been achieved.

    Last year Ofqual justified the use of the algorithm by saying that they they had not have time to train teachers how to grade students. This year , with Ofqual’s “training”, the rise in grade when compared with 2019 has grown and so has the difference between the different sections of the student population. It seems that Ofqual’s “training” and quality control this year have made things worse.

  2. Huy Duong

    Ofqual say the widened gap between private and state schools could be “understood as the impact of the pandemic on students’ education and the impact of the change in assessment arrangements”, and the “two sources of impact are impossible of disentangle”.

    The point of this year’s arrangements is to mitigate the impact of the differences in learning loss experienced by different students. Since the end result is that private schools have pulled even further ahead, there is no evidence that that goal has been achieved. (Although it’s not possible to know if the gap would have been even larger with exams).

    Last year Ofqual justified the use of the algorithm by saying that they had not had time to train teachers how to grade students. This year , with Ofqual’s “training”, the rise in grade when compared with 2019 has grown and so has the difference between the different sections of the student population. With Ofqual’s “training” and quality control this year, both grade inflation and inequality have grown.

  3. Once again whether it be the Government or teachers we still see the poorest of children within the black communities being denied education. While their rich counter peers of a different culture gets the best grades. Education or Equal opportunities are never rely offered to these children with an opportunity for them to archive. You would of think teachers or the government would of allowed each child despite culture, gender or race an opportunity to succeed by giving each child at least a pass grade to enter college or to pursue one or two subjects at A-level. This system is rigid.