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GCSE Results confusion must not distract from long-term inequalities in our education system

Maria Neophytou, Acting CEO of Impetus

Today’s #GCSE solutions could be next year’s problems 

The algorithm controversy of 2020 must not steal focus from the underlying inequalities in the education system. 

While reverting to teacher predictions will be better for many young people, it will do little to correct longer term injustices.

Today, students have received record pass rates at GCSE.  While this looks good on paper, this cohort’s joy will be next year’s cohort’s pain.  Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to do less well under the traditional assessments system.  Yet, next year’s cohort will be forever competing with students with more generously awarded grades.

In the debate triggered by the algorithm controversy, there has been much talk of fairness and justice.  But the real injustices in GCSE results have been embedded in the education system for generations.

Attention must urgently turn to supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who did not achieve the necessary grades today.  Catching up could be a significant challenge.  Even with the option of resits, only 45% of them get GCSEs in English and maths by age 19, compared to 72% of their better-off classmates. 

It’s vital for young people to get a grade 4 or above (equivalent to the old grade C) in English and maths. Because as our ‘impact of English and maths’ briefing explains, without good English and maths qualifications, life after school is much tougher, with fewer options and less access to jobs and higher education.

Given the likely rise in unemployment as a result of the recession, this concern is even more pressing.  As our Youth Jobs Gap research has established, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are twice as likely to not be in education, employment or training (NEET) as their better-off counterparts.

Dr. Maria Neophytou, Acting CEO of Impetus

Impetus is a charity that transforms the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by ensuring they get the right support to succeed in school, in work and in life.

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