Kier Starmer

@Keir_Starmer - @BorisJohnson risks ‘robbing a generation of their future’ over unfairness in exam system 

Keir Starmer warns that the Prime Minister risks “robbing a generation of young people of their future” unless he urgently addresses unfairness in this year's exam grading system.

The warning comes ahead of serious concerns that A-level and GCSE results could be downgraded for thousands of pupils in England because of the replacement grading system that was introduced post-lockdown. The exam regulator Ofqual has confirmed that “standardisation will draw on the historical outcomes of a centre”. 

A Guardian report last week suggested that as many as 40 per cent of A-level results could be downgraded, with exam officials privately confirming this.

Ahead of a meeting with teachers and parents in Wakefield, the Labour leader said: “It's a blatant injustice that thousands of hard-working young people risk having their futures decided on the basis of their postcode…Unless Boris Johnson acts, he risks robbing a generation of young people of their future.”

Labour is calling on the Prime Minister to urgently introduce the following changes to make the system fairer:

  • Help students to correct their grades, with credible appeals and resits. The UK Government have said there will be resits in the Autumn, but they have set out no credible plan for how this will happen. There will also be many students for whom a resit is not practical, and there needs to be an appeals process that allows them to challenge their individual results because they believe they have been unfairly downgraded due to the standardisation process. 
  • Urgently clarify which students are likely to be worst affected by the model being used. Details of the model used will not be published until after results day. Publishing details now will help institutions with the admissions process and help students understand their results on Thursday. 
  • Mandate greater flexibility in admissions decisions this year. The Government and regulators must go further by issuing statutory guidance to providers of higher and further education to be more flexible with their admission criteria for students who are affected by the standardisation process and miss out on their required grades.
  • Ensure no GCSE student should be moderated down to below a Grade 4 in English or Maths. Achieving a Grade 4 (the equivalent of the old C grade) in GCSE Maths and English has significant consequences for the life chances of young people. No student should see their grades standardised to below this level in these two subjects. 

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, speaking ahead of visit to Yorkshire said:

“Pupils and parents are rightly worried that years of hard work are about to be undone because a computer has decided to mark their child down.

“For too long, the Tories have considered the needs of young people as an afterthought when their needs should have been central.

“It's a blatant injustice that thousands of hard-working young people risk having their futures decided on the basis of their postcode.

“The SNP have been forced into a humiliating U-turn after a shambolic few days. With 24 hours before results are released, I would urge the Prime Minister to change course, or he risks robbing a generation of their future.”

  • In April, Ofqual, the exams and qualifications regulator, outlined their approach to assessment when exams were cancelled. Schools and teachers were required to provide a predicted grade for pupils in each subject, and their rank within their class in that subject.
  • This moderation is designed to ensure that grades are largely consistent with those in previous years, rather than being too generous or too harsh overall. However, there will inevitably be young people who lose out under this system, often unfairly so. 
  • The government have clearly acknowledged that there will be some issues in Ofqual’s approach, but this clarification has come late in the day and does not go far enough. 

Labour is calling on the Prime Minister to urgently introduce the following changes to make the system fairer:

    • Help students to correct their grades, with credible appeals and resits. The UK Government have said there will be resits in the Autumn, but they have set out no credible plan for how this will happen. There will also be many students for whom a resit is not practical, and there needs to be an appeals process that allows them to challenge their individual results because they believe they have been unfairly downgraded due to the standardisation process. 
    • Urgently clarify which students are likely to be worst affected by the model being used. Details of the model used will not be published until after results day. Publishing details now will help institutions with the admissions process and help students understand their results on Thursday.
    • Mandate greater flexibility in admissions decisions this year. The Government and regulators must go further by issuing statutory guidance to providers of higher and further education to be more flexible with their admission criteria for students who are affected by the standardisation process and miss out on their required grades.
    • Ensure no GCSE student is moderated down to below a Grade 4 in English or Maths. Achieving a Grade 4 (the equivalent of the old C grade) in GCSE Maths and English has significant consequences for the life chances of young people. No student should see their grades standardised to below this level in these two subjects.

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