DISADVANTAGED students have borne the brunt of the standardisation process used to award A-level grades in England this year, the principal of Carmel College has said.

Almost 40 per cent of A-level grades submitted by teachers were downgraded, following the cancellation of this year’s exams due to coronavirus.

Students this year received a calculated grade, based largely on predicted grades submitted by teachers.

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These centre-assessed grades were predictions of what results pupils were most likely to achieve if exams had gone ahead, and have been standardised using a statistical model.

Ofqual, the exam regulator in England, said the grades submitted by teachers were around 12 percentage points higher than last year’s actual results at A-level, and nine percentage points higher at GCSE.

In an attempt to standardise results, Ofqual’s algorithm adjusted the centre-assessed grades based on information including students’ prior attainment and school or college’s historic results.

However, this has seen a disproportionate number of pupils in disadvantaged areas downgraded.

According to official Ofqual analysis, pupils in lower socioeconomic backgrounds were most likely to have their results downgraded, while those in wealthier areas were less likely to be changed.

The proportion of students achieving A*s and As also increased in private schools twice as much as comprehensives, despite no-one sitting an exam.

Ofqual insists that, throughout the development and testing of the model, and in its implementation, it has “taken all possible steps to ensure the process is as fair as it can be and, where possible, have taken design decisions in the students’ favour.”

In St Helens, a number of students have seen their grades downgraded.

Mike Hill, principal at Carmel College, said the system is “unfair”, and did not take into consideration significant progress made since GCSE.

“I do think this year’s an exceptional year,” Mr Hill said.

“If it had meant there was a 12 per cent rise in people getting grades, to me I think that should have been the sacrifice that we made, and we try and get back to normal next year and the year after.

“It’s unfair on these people who’ve worked hard. Some of our kids that we know have worked so hard and you know, from challenging families and backgrounds.

“And unfortunately some of the schools round here aren’t great, and they’ve got through that and they’ve come here.

“And that’s the unfair bit, I think very often it’s many of those young people seem to have been more unfairly treated.”

Mr Hill one student received a top mark on their mock exam and was subsequently given a high centre-assessed grade by their teacher.

This was then downgraded by Ofqual’s algorithm.

St Helens Star: Mike Hill, principal at Carmel CollegeMike Hill, principal at Carmel College

Mr Hill said: “How can a kid who got grade 6s now be getting A*s?

“Well, because they’re doing the subjects they love, they’re at a great college and they’re passionate about what they want to do.

“And it looks to me like the mathematics that have been used just didn’t take any of that into account.

"It’s just a big hammer to crack a nut really.”

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Mr Hill is hopeful students will be able to boost their grades on appeal through the Government’s ‘triple lock’ system, which was announced late on Tuesday.

Students will be able to use mock exam results or sit autumn exams if they are unhappy with their calculated grades.

Ofqual has said it will publish guidance on how colleges can use “valid mock grades” to appeal A-levels and GCSE results next week.