UK government makes A-level results U-turn

Pupils will be awarded their predicted grades after days of outrage across England over lowered marks

The UK government on Monday announced it would reverse a chaotic exams-grading policy that left thousands of 18-year-olds without university places and sparked claims of discrimination against pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Pupils will be awarded their teacher-assessed predicted grades for their A-level and GCSE exams.

Roger Taylor, the chairman of the UK's Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), which governs qualifications, told Sky News the algorithm-based approach "simply has not been an acceptable experience for young people".

Education Minister Gavin Williamson said he was "sorry for the distress this has caused young people".

Mr Williamson had insisted on Saturday that there would be “no U-turn”, though he said pupils who received downgraded results could appeal or retake the exams.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson arrives at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), ahead of a cabinet meeting to be held at the FCO, for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown in London, Britain July 21, 2020. Stefan Rousseau/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

But criticism of the policy spread quickly, even within the ranks of the governing Conservative Party.

“This group of young people have lost out on so much already; we must ensure that bright, capable students can progress on their next step,” said Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt.

Defence Minister Johnny Mercer said there were “clear injustices” in the system.

In Scotland, education authorities quickly reversed course after a similar fiasco last week, saying students would be awarded their predicted grades. That increased pressure on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do the same for England.

What does the U-turn mean for pupils in the UAE?

Pupils in the UAE who had their A-Level grades downgraded will have their original teacher predicted marks restored after widespread backlash, qualifications provider Cambridge International announced on Monday night.

Cambridge International said the decision would affect all qualifications it issued as part of the June 2020 series including the IGCSE, AS-Levels and the Pre-U.

“Since we released our results on 11 August, we have been listening to feedback from our schools and students. We have carefully considered this feedback,” a spokesperson for Cambridge International said.

“It is important to us that Cambridge students can compete on an equal basis with students who have similar national or international qualifications, and that their hard work and achievements are compared fairly. We recognise the urgent and practical need to help Cambridge students get on with their education and their lives.

Of the 295,000 pupils at Dubai’s private schools, 109,894 attend UK curriculum schools, making it the most popular curriculum in the emirate.

Universities in the UK offer A-level pupils places based on grades predicted by their teachers.

This year, with schools largely shut since March and physical exams cancelled, education authorities in England ran the predicted grades through an algorithm, intended to standardise results, that compared them with schools’ past performance.

That meant high-achieving students at underperforming schools, many in deprived areas, saw their marks downgraded, while students at above-average schools kept their predicted grades.

Hundreds of pupils have staged protests calling the results an injustice and politicians have been inundated with complaints from angry parents.

 

Kay Mountfield, head teacher at a school in Marlow, west of London, said 85 per cent of her pupils received lower than predicted grades.

“Seventy of my students have not had their first choice of university,” she said. “Normally that would be about five, or 10 maybe, students.”

Some universities, including Oxford and University College London, announced they would honour the offers they had made based on pupils' predicted scores.

The backlash over exam results adds to the criticism facing Mr Johnson over his handling of the pandemic and on education, with ministers under fire over plans to get schools reopened full-time in September.

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