Legal action threat over A-level results fiasco

The government may face legal action on behalf of pupils affected by this year’s A-levels debacle.

At least two legal challenges are in the early stages of being mounted, following upset across England in response to grades issued yesterday.

It comes after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission warned it may intervene following a day of misery which saw 39.1 per cent of grades downgraded via the standardisation process.

Schools reported that their pupils have missed out on university offers and other opportunities because results issued by exam boards were much lower than those given by schools.

Yesterday, law firm Foxglove said the A-level algorithm was “unfair and possible unlawful”, and that it was gathering evidence ahead of a potential judicial review.

The firm is supporting student Curtis Parfitt-Ford, whose petition calling for a fairer system has amassed over 135,000 signatures as of this morning.

And Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, has announced this morning that his organisation was mounting a legal challenge to “compliment” the one brought by Foxglove.

Maugham said the challenge “will focus on the unfairness, and in particular the limited and flawed appeal rights”.

It comes as pressure mounts on ministers to address unfairness in the system for awarding grades this year.

Following the cancellation of exams, schools were asked to provide centre-assessment grades for their pupils, which were then standardised by exam boards.

Ofqual and the government have defended the standardisation process, insisting it was necessary to prevent grade inflation. They also pointed to a 2.4 percentage point rise in the proportion of top grades this year as evidence that the system had worked.

But schools have warned that the overall results mask volatility and inconsistency in the grades at a pupil level, and are expected to appeal against large numbers of grades issued through the process.

Although most of the grades downgraded were only lowered by one grade, 3.3 per cent, well over 20,000 grades, were adjusted down by two and 0.2 per cent – hundreds of grades – fell by three.

Maugham said today that his firm was “looking for students downgraded by at least two grades, especially the cases of students whose academic achievements have been downgraded”, adding that he knew of “one case from a C to a U”.

The system has also come under fire after it emerged poorer pupils were more likely to be downgraded, and that private schools had seen the biggest boost in top grades.

But the government continued to insist today that there was no bias in the system.

“Ofqual have been clear that the standardisation model does not distinguish between different types of schools and colleges, and therefore contains no bias, either in favour or against, types of schools or institutions,” a Department for Education spokesperson said.

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  1. Carol Steele

    Our son has lost his university place because of this fiasco: the Government’s flawed methodology has trampled on his future, downgraded and penalised him because of the school he happened to attend. Our son never had a Plan B. Maybe he should have, but he didn’t because he knew he could get the grades he needed.
    We have spent the last 36 hours helping him to put his life back together. I cannot begin to tell you how angry I am about this.

  2. Katrina Paines

    Our daughters A level results have all been downgraded , 2 of them by 2 grades and the other by one. This is disgraceful when she worked so hard to attain these grades . The teachers predictions must be used . The system used is extremely flawed and is not fit for purpose and not representative of the hard work students have put in. Not only is she is devastated and demoralised but it is Now affecting her mental health. It is disgraceful that some students in better areas/schools have had their grades upgraded from their predictions when so many have been penalised . How can this be fair? All the teachers have worked extremely hard in this time of crisis to give each and every student the grade they deserve .

  3. Tegan Jame

    This is a complete farce – The percentage of grades between A* and C have increased overall – Parents needs to get off their hobby horses and just help their children move on..

    If you don’t like the grades – sit the exams in Oct 2020 – and lets hope you see the grades you believe they deserve.

    The time is now – let’s move on

  4. Frederick Ruddick

    Dear Mrs Collier (Head of Ofqual)
    My complaint relates to unequal treatment of students across the UK during a Covid-19 pandemic, which is unfair and unjust. The moderation process used by Ofqual is not able to consider individual student performance as normally occurs, and any consideration of using mock results as a guideline illustrates a complete misunderstanding of mock exams and their purpose, which is to highlight areas for development before the real exams some months later. Students will be failing because of their rank order and schools past performance (not an exact science), to satisfy statisticians need for a ‘bell curve’ distribution dooming many of those who could have passed in exam conditions to automatic failure. Please reconsider using teacher assessments, as they at least are based upon the individual students potential. They may also be flawed, and yes this year there may be grade inflation, but better that than a whole generation of students whose life chances are affected in a discriminatory manner. The government should be standing behind the nations children, not punishing them for being in education during Covid-19. Resolution of my complaint means reverting to teacher assessments and reversing downgrading of results based on a deeply flawed and discriminatory algorithm.
    Regards Frederick Ruddick (Senior Lecturer Retired)

    Please do not pass this on to another department or send a preprepared response churned out to everyone. Someone has to take responsibility.

  5. Steph Lonsdale

    Our daughter was also downgraded 2 levels in 2 subjects and 1 level in a third (from AAB to CCC). This also means that she had been declined a place to study Biomedical Science at Edinburgh.

    Considering she attained grade 9 in physics and grade 8 in biology and chemistry at GCSE, and she achieved all A’s for her end of year exams in year 12, I cannot fathom the logic in why or how the algorithm came to the conclusion that she should be downgraded to Cs.

    She feels like she has been betrayed and now punished for something over which she has had no control or even the opportunity to prove her academic ability.

  6. Nicola Thomas

    The alogorithm also penalises the mid to low ranked students at high performing sixth forms, including those in the private sector. My son, state educated all his life, underperformed in his A levels last year following the unexpected death of his best friend’s father. We used our savings to send him to a specialised A level re-sit college so he could improve his grades to get to university. We thought we were doing the right thing as supportive parents; and would have been had Covid not occurred.
    The college intake is of highly motivated students prepared to spend an extra year studying to get their target grades, and the college regularly achieves over 40% A*/A grades and has high added value. This has proven a huge disadvantage this year for the lower half of this high achieving group of students, where the algorithm requires that a proportion (according to rankings within the college) get low grades.
    My son had A grades in his subjects at GCSE and was predicted A level grades of AB, but in this high performing environment, was ranked in the lower half of the college. He has received CD thanks to OfQual’s ludicrous and unfair algorithm. He says he feels robbed; he has been.
    Ironically, so have we. In this particular year, had he re-taken at a lower performing local college where he would have been highly ranked, he would have received the A level grades he deserved and we would still have our savings!
    How can grades be determined by a system that defines you by the college you attend (private or state) rather than by the judgement of professional teachers.