Exam cancellations will hit poor and BAME children hardest, experts warn MPs

Poor children, boys, summer born pupils and those from ethnic minority backgrounds could all be disadvantaged by exams being scrapped, education experts warned today.

Teenagers will be given GCSE and A-Level grades based on teacher assessment this year because exams have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Teachers have also been asked to rank their students in each subject.

Speaking to the education committee of MPs today, Lee Elliot Major, professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter called for a review of how fair the results are to students.

Teachers will be asked to rank students by grade (PA)

He said: “There is lots of evidence of bias – we are all prone to bias. The worry is that unintentionally teachers will underestimate the academic potential of poorer pupils, potentially those from black backgrounds and potentially boys.”

He added that the system penalises pupils who leave their revision to the last minute. He said: “It warrants some sort of review over fairness after we get the results.”

Zubaida Haque, interim director of the Runnymede Trust said it is important to make sure “gross injustices are not carried out.”

Professor Elliot Major said if students miss out on “threshold” grades, they will be unlikely to get a job and will suffer life long impacts.

He added there is a “tsunami of anxiety hitting schools.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union called for grade boundaries to be relaxed. He said: “There need to be more children getting all of the higher grades. Where there is doubt they should move up a grade rather than down a grade. I don’t see how else we will get through this.”

He also called for books and art materials to be delivered to poorer children at home.

Dr Haque of the Runnymede Trust said Ofqual are more concerned about overcompensating students rather than the students who are being underpredicted.

Former Ofsted chief inspector Michael Wilshaw also raised concerns about this year’s GCSE and A-Level grades. Speaking on BBC Radio 4 today he said weaker schools have “very unreliable internal assessment systems.”

He added: “The department for education, working with Ofqual, need to make sure the results given to the exam boards are properly checked and moderated.”

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