From education to employment

Summer 2020 outcomes did not systemically disadvantage students

@Ofqual say GCSE, A level and VTQ students were not systemically disadvantaged on the basis of particular protected characteristics or socioeconomic status.

Becky Francis 100x100Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“It is welcome news that the disadvantage gap for this year’s GCSE students hasn’t widened as a result of changes to this year’s grade awards in the absence of exams. However, the risk for future years is very real.

“Our own evidence has highlighted the risk of a decade’s progress in closing the disadvantage gap being reversed as a result of the Covid-19 closure of schools to most pupils. It’s important that the disproportionate impact of missed learning time on students from socially-disadvantaged backgrounds is accounted for in the way future year groups are assessed.”

David Gallagher 100x100David Gallagher, Chief Executive, NCFE said:

“Over the summer, we issued almost 90,000 results to Functional Skills, level 2 and 3 learners. We worked in collaboration with our centres, Ofqual and other sector bodies to ensure the process was fair and robust, and we were delighted to congratulate so many learners on their achievements.

“At NCFE, as an educational charity, it’s of huge importance to us that no learner is left behind and has the opportunity to reach their potential, regardless of their socio-economic background or any other factor. With this in mind, as we look to qualification adaptations in the year ahead to accommodate assessment in a Covid-impacted environment, accessibility is at the forefront of our thinking. In addition to this, we are currently piloting a remote invigilation solution to support learners and centres, and will communicate more about the roll-out of this as the pilot continues.”

Rae Tooth 100x100Rae Tooth, Chief Executive of social mobility charity Villiers Park Education Trust, said:

“It is a relief to read that, after a turbulent summer exam season which resulted in unnecessary stress and disruption for thousands of young people, Ofqual found no evidence that the grade-awarding process was ‘systematically biased against candidates with protected characteristics or from disadvantaged backgrounds’. That is not to say that the process worked smoothly and fairly for all of the young people affected, which it most certainly did not. Far too many students missed out on their rightful places at university. The impact on them could last a lifetime.

“Many questions remain about how students will be assessed next summer, and what can be done to ensure that students from less advantaged backgrounds whose education has been disrupted by COVID-19 do not find themselves even further disadvantaged due to no fault of their own. Ofqual freely admits that the impact of students’ socio-economic status on their education progress and attainment – one of the greatest existential questions we must address as a society – is ‘outside the scope of this report’. It is vital that we learn lessons from the exams fiasco of 2020, and start to make significant progress on the journey to creating a more equal and equitable society.”

Ofqual has today (26 Nov) published two reports evaluating summer 2020 qualification results by student group:

 Our research suggests that students were not systemically disadvantaged in 2020 on the basis of their protected characteristics or socioeconomic status. We compared this year’s students with those taking qualifications in summer 2018 and 2019.

For GCSE and A level, our research compares 2020 A level and GCSE outcomes – centre-assessment grades (CAGs), calculated grades and final grades – with results from 2018 and 2019. We broke down results by students’ gender, ethnicity, first language, SEND status, free school meals eligibility and socioeconomic status.

Our evaluation found that had calculated grades been awarded (rather than the final grades awarded), the results would have been more closely in line with the established relationships between student characteristics and outcomes that we see in previous exam results. The changes seen by using final grades are small, however, and do not suggest that any groups of candidates who share particular protected characteristics or socioeconomic status were systemically disadvantaged.

At both GCSE and A level, the most consistent and significant effect was an uplift in outcomes for all groups using CAGs and final grades, but not using calculated grades.

At A level, the attainment gap that had previously seen male candidates outperform female candidates (when other variables are accounted for) narrowed further, having previously narrowed between 2018 and 2019. This suggests the change in the gender attainment gap is a continuation of a trend. This was true for CAGs, calculated grades and final grades.

We have also published an analysis of grades awarded for a number of vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) in spring and summer 2020. This research shows that grades awarded to those who sat those VTQs earlier this year were not substantially different to grades from previous years, despite the impact of COVID-19. There was, however, for certain types of qualifications, an increase in the number of top grades being awarded.

For the VTQ report, Ofqual researchers collected data from 33 awarding organisations on all learners who were awarded a grade for a Functional Skills, Other General, or Performance Table Qualification between mid-March and the end of July.

Attainment gaps between different demographic groups did not change or increase in most cases. These analyses do not suggest that any groups of candidates who share particular protected characteristics or socioeconomic status were systemically disadvantaged by the impact of the pandemic and the approach to awarding in 2020.

The overall profile of results for this group of qualifications was broadly in line with normal expectations. Ofqual will continue to monitor VTQ results in the months to come.

We recently updated our VTQ landscape tool which shows VTQs available in England and regulated by Ofqual.

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