Private Education: GCE A-level

Department for Education written question – answered on 21st February 2022.

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Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to establish an inquiry into the manner in which A-level grades in independent schools were assessed in 2021.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Parents and students can have confidence in the grades awarded in 2021. Overall results in 2021 showed success for those targeting the top grades from all types of schools and from all backgrounds. The grades awarded reflected students’ hard work in what was a hugely challenging year.

Exam boards set out clear requirements for a robust yet proportionate quality assurance process that supported teachers to make their judgements and ensured that students received meaningful grades. There was a process for both internal and external quality assurance and all centres, including independent schools, had their process for awarding grades checked by exam boards to make sure their arrangements were appropriate. All schools also submitted a selection of student evidence to exam boards, who scrutinised a sample of this work. Of the sample of 1,101 centres who had their submissions scrutinised. 55% were secondary schools or academies, 18% were independent or selective centres, 13% were FE colleges, sixth forms or tertiary colleges and 13% were other centre types (including free schools); broadly in line with the proportion of each centre type nationally.

Ofqual have already published significant analysis of the summer 2021 GCSE and A level results, which can be readily accessed. Ofqual has published its report on how it monitored awarding organisations’ delivery and award of qualifications to students in 2021, along with its equalities analysis, published last summer, which reported that exam boards found no evidence that teachers’ judgements were systemically biased in favour of one group of students or another. The report and equalities analysis are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/analysis-of-results-a-levels-and-gcses-summer-2021.

Ofqual’s analyses show general stability in the differences in outcomes for students with different protected characteristics compared to previous years and increases in outcomes for many groups. Ofqual have reported that this suggests the changes to the assessment arrangements in 2021 have lessened the unevenness in outcomes we may otherwise have seen.

The department is clear that exams are the best form of assessment, which is why we are determined they will take place this summer with adaptations to maximise fairness for young people. The government remains committed to providing world-class education and training for everyone, whatever their background or characteristics and will continue to take the action needed to address disparities to help all pupils make up learning lost as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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