Reverting back to pre-Covid grading for 2022 would be unfair to pupils – Ofqual

The chief regulator’s comments come after the Government unveiled a series of measures for exams in England next year.

Students sitting exams
Students sitting exams

Reverting back to pre-Covid grading standards for summer 2022 would “not be fair” to students, the interim chief regulator at Ofqual has suggested.

Dame Glenys Stacey, acting chief of England’s exams regulator, said it is unclear when “normality” will resume for grading, adding that we are in a “different era” amid the pandemic.

Her comments to MPs come after the Government announced last week that GCSE and A-level students in England will be awarded more generous grades in 2021 – in line with 2020 results where pupils received a larger proportion of higher grades than previous years after exams were cancelled.

Addressing the virtual Education Select Committee, Dame Glenys said: “I think it’s unconscionable for us to try and row back to 2019 as if the pandemic could have never happened.

“Instead, we have a pandemic cohort started in summer 2020 and it will last beyond 2021.”

She added there was “virtually no support” for returning to established standards in the year ahead.

Her comments came after MPs asked her whether “grade inflation” would continue in years to come.

Dame Glenys said: “I think it is absolutely right to see how schools are affected, to collect the data and then to reach a position for 2022.

“I think if we were to try to move straight back incidentally there to 2019 it wouldn’t be fair to students. That’s my personal view but there’s a discussion to be had.”

Senior Conservative MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Education Select Committee, said: “In essence, what you’re doing is baking-in hyper grade inflation let alone grade inflation for the years to come.”

Last week, the Government unveiled a package of measures for students in England sitting their A-level and GCSE exams in the summer to compensate for disruption to their schooling during the pandemic.

Pupils in England will be given advance notice of some topics ahead of their tests and they will be allowed to take in exam aids, such as formula sheets, to ensure this cohort of students is not disadvantaged.

But MPs raised concerns that some students in England – who have faced significantly more disruption to their learning than their peers – may not be sufficiently compensated under the measures.

Christian Wakeford, Conservative MP for Bury South, said the contingency measures did “not go far enough”, adding that there were examples of students who have had to isolate “six, seven, eight times”.

Dame Glenys acknowledged that students in some parts of the country were “being sent home more than others”, but she said it was not straightforward for a grading system to take this into account.

She added there are well-off parents in all parts of the country and that some students will have had access to private tutors in all regions.

An expert group will look into how different pupils have missed out on learning across the country.

Dame Glenys said Ofqual has suggested that ratings for students’ lost learning could be issued by teachers alongside grades next year.

But she said these ratings should not be imported into grades and they should not be on qualification certificates.

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