The biggest reduction in the proportion of students awarded A-level grades of C and above after moderation was recorded within those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Some 85 per cent of candidates classed as having a “low” socio-economic status by exam regulator Ofqual had been predicted to achieve a C and above by their schools.

This fell to 74.6 per cent once final grades were calculated under this year’s new moderation process – a drop of 10.4 percentage points.

By contrast, the proportion of students from the least deprived backgrounds, or “high” socio-economic status, awarded a C and above fell by 8.3 percentage points during the process, from 89.3 per cent to 81 per cent.

No evidence of bias

The figures form part of a technical analysis issued by Ofqual on Thursday to accompany the release of A-level results for England.

Ofqual said there was no evidence “bias” had been introduced into the moderation system set up following the cancellation of exams due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It said differences between the change in predicted and final results was “relatively similar” across all socio-economic groups.

The regulator said it was “difficult to draw firm conclusions” over the relationship between deprivation and grade adjustment.

It highlighted that its analysis did not take into account the variation in generosity from schools when they submitted predicted grades.

It also noted that research suggested that teachers had a tendency to “overestimate to a greater extent the grades of socio-economically disadvantaged students”.

Ofqual said that in recent years students of less deprivation had higher grade outcomes, meaning there was less scope for overgenerous predictions when compared with more deprived candidates who tend to have lower outcomes overall.

Dr Michelle Meadows, executive director for strategy, risk and research at Ofqual, told reporters on Thursday that its analyses showed there was “no evidence of systematic bias” in the exam assessment model used this year.

She added: “Outcomes for different groups, whether that be by socio-economic status, ethnicity, gender, the outcomes for these groups are very similar to those in previous years.”

Dr Meadows said that research literature covering A-level predictions for university entrants shows that “there is a tendency to be more generous to students from lower socio-economic status”.

Commenting on whether there was a relationship between social disadvantage and the moderation of exam results, she said: “There was a tendency for some more generosity to be there in the predictions for students with lower socio-economic status, backgrounds.”

She added: “There is a small effect of a greater difference between the end calculated grades and the centre assessment grades.”

Fears have been raised over ‘school profiling’ in Ireland’s Leaving Cert calculated grades system.

school profiling

Speaking on Monday, Labour’s education spokesman, Aodhan Ó Ríordáin, said: “We feel that the school profiling element that the Government are going through could, at any stage, be taken out – Leaving Cert results are not going to be issued until September 7th.

“The Labour Party wants to be wrong, we want that when the results come out everybody is satisfied, that there is a robust process and all the fears were ungrounded.

“But, unfortunately, those who said the very same thing in Scotland were proven to be right.”


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