House of Commons education committee asks Ofqual, England’s exam regulator, to examine whether certain groups such as black and ethnic minority students or students with special needs “have been systematically disadvantaged By the manner in which the examination marks will be awarded.
Official exams were canceled earlier this year following the coronavirus outbreak. Rather, marks will be awarded by Ofqual to each school or examination center based on their past performance. Students will then receive individual marks for each course based on the assessments and class rankings decided by their school.But the deputies’ committee said there were valid fears that specific groups of students would suffer unjustly as part of the process. MEPs were particularly alarmed that Ofqual’s standardization model – used to distribute grades according to a model similar to previous years – would unfairly penalize talented students.
“Ofqual must identify if there is evidence that groups such as BAME students, students with special educational needs and disabilities, children in care and students eligible for free meals have been systematically disadvantaged by calculated scores. If this is the case, Ofqual’s standardization model must adjust the grades of the pupils concerned upwards ”, concludes the commission in its report.
Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow who chairs the education committee, said: “We have serious concerns about the fairness of the model developed by Ofqual. There is a risk that this will lead to unfair prejudice and discrimination against already disadvantaged groups and we are far from convinced that the appeal system, which will be more important than ever this year, will be fair.
“The appeal process appears to favor high heels and high elbows, and the system could resemble the Wild West of appeals, with different systems used by different review boards.”
MPs also criticized Ofqual’s appeal, saying that it was up to individual families to prove prejudice or discrimination, which the committee said was “a threshold almost impossible for any student to prove.” ”
“Ofqual must urgently publish the evidence thresholds for proving bias or discrimination, clearly stating what evidence will be needed, including examples of case studies. This must be communicated to parents and students before the results day, ”said the report.
A spokesperson for Ofqual said his standardization model was “an essential tool” to ensure that standards were broadly similar to previous years.
“We have thoroughly tested the model to ensure that it gives students the fairest and most precise results possible and, to the extent possible, that students are not advantaged or disadvantaged based on their socio-economic background or special protected characteristics, and we will evaluate the results.
“We agree that students, their parents, caregivers and teachers need to understand how their results were calculated and we are committed to publishing all the details of the model in due course.
“We, and the exam boards, will do our best to help students and their families understand how to access a call or file a complaint for bias, discrimination or other concerns.”
The Committee of Deputies was also concerned that sixth grade A students next year would not be eligible for government “catch-up” funding in England.
“The government needs to extend catch-up funding to include disadvantaged students after 16 to ensure that this is not a lost generation. This should be done by doubling the disadvantage element in the 16-19 funding formula for grade 12 students for at least next year, “said MEPs.