Schools inform exam boards about pupils’ socio-economic status, ethnicity and disabilities, the UK’s equality watchdog says
April 30, 2020 Thursday 5:53 PM GMT
Teachers have been warned over “unconscious bias“ amid fears that ethnic minorities and poor children could be given incorrect GCSE or A-level grade predictions.
Schools should be required to inform exam boards about pupils’ socio-economic status, ethnicity and disabilities alongside their predicted grade, according to the UK’s equality watchdog.
This would enable exam boards to analyse trends in the predicted grades they receive from teachers and check for any “systematic advantages or disadvantages” for particular groups of students.
If any are found, they should be investigated and “remedial action” taken where necessary. In their submission to Ofqual’s consultation, the Equality Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said that relying on teachers‘ predictions when awarding gradescarries a risk of “unconscious or conscious bias“.
This could have a negative impact on students from ethnic minorities as well as those with disabilities and special education needs who are “already disproportionately disadvantaged”, they explained.\
The EHRC said that if students are not satisfied with their grades, they should be allowed to appeal on the grounds of suspected unlawful discrimination.
The Government announced in March that all GCSEs and A-level exams will be cancelled this summer, with predicted gradesawarded instead.
Teachers have been told to submit grades to exam boards by the end of this month based on what they think pupils would have been most likely to achieve if exams had gone ahead. Their judgments should be based on a full range of evidence-including classwork, coursework, mock exams or previous results. School staff are required to rank their students within each grade and subject.
Exam boards and Ofqual will then carry out a process of moderation and award students with their final grades in August.
David Isaac, chair of the EHRC, warned that predicted grades could “deepen the existing inequality” in education and put the futures of deprived youngsters at risk if not correctly implemented.
He urged ministers to issue guidance to schools on how to predict grades and rank pupils in a way that minimises the risk of conscious or unconscious bias.
“We can’t let the crisis happening now affect the future of disadvantaged pupils when so many, particularly disabled pupils and those of ethnic minority background, already face an uphill battle,” he said.
“At this time it is critically important that public authorities meet the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty and consider the needs and disadvantages facing pupils with different protected characteristics when they are deciding and implementing their response to the coronavirus emergency.”
Ofqual published its own equality impact assessment on predicted grades which found that black and Asian students are more likely to have their grades over-predicted than their white peers.
It also found that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are also more likely to be given overly generous predictions by their teachers.
Ofqual’s review of evidence found that for both GCSEs and A levels, private schools and grammar schools made the most accurate and least optimistic predictions, which could be down to the fact that those schools have, on average, higher performing students.
The EHRC said that the studies Ofqual cited were based on predicted grades for university admissions which is different to the current situation.
Fewer than half of students think their predicted grade will accurately reflect their ability,a survey of school leavers found.
Just 46 per cent felt that their predicted grades will be the same as the grades they would have got had they taken exams, according to a poll commissioned by the Higher Education Policy Institute.
A further 27 per cent felt their predicted grades were worse than what they would have got in exams, 13 per cent thought they were better and 14 per cent did not know.
An Ofqual spokesman said: “The guidance we have developed sets out how teachers can work together to best make objective, evidence-based judgements… and we are confident that schools and colleges will be able to apply this fairly and consistently.”
The standardisation model will be designed “toensure, so far as is possible, that students are not advantaged or disadvantaged on the basis of their socio-economic background”.