David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges

#ALevelResults #ResultsDay - Association of Colleges (@AoC_info) calls for urgent review into #ALevel standardisation process as many colleges have over half their grades downgraded

Responding to today's A Levels results and the downgrading of many student's grades, AoC's Chief Executive, David Hughes said: 

“My congratulations go out to the many college students who will have received the results they deserve and need to successfully realise their ambitions. Thanks to their hard work and the efforts of college staff, most students will be able to progress to the next stage of their education despite all the disruption this year.  

"However, we are deeply concerned that the adjustment process may have disadvantaged larger centres such as colleges and those with historically strong value added data. There seem to be inconsistencies across the board. While 39.1% of Centre Assessment Grades were adjusted down by one or more grade overall, we are hearing from a number of colleges that over 50% of their grades have been adjusted downwards. Colleges with large cohorts and very stable and predictable results over time are seeing their lowest grade profile ever, particularly at the higher grades, A to C. Because on average more disadvantaged students attend further education colleges this may have resulted in a systemic bias.

"It is for this reason that I have written to the Education Secretary and the Chief Regulator of Ofqual this morning to ask for an urgent technical review into the A Level results standardisation process. If colleges, and subsequently many disadvantaged students have been hit by an unfair or inconsistent process then this needs to be investigated immediately – and adjustments made quickly. This should not be left to individual colleges or students having to use the appeals process.”

The full letter to Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson and Ofqual's Chief Regulator, Sally Collier:

Dear Gavin and Sally,

I am writing to ask OfQual and DfE to launch and announce an urgent technical review into the A Level results standardisation process for larger centres.

Some of our members with larger numbers of A Level students, and often with students disproportionately from disadvantaged backgrounds are reporting to us some very worrying data. It would appear that the standardisation process may have been biased against larger centres and those with high value-added scores.

The evidence that some colleges are reporting is that their higher grade passes (A to C) are much lower than their historic results, over the last 3 years. In other colleges the A to C pass rate has increased compared with historical data. That inconsistency is worrying. The overall pass rates are in line and do not seem to be such an issue. So this is not about overoptimistic assessed grades, it is about actual performance.

The algorithm has also potentially missed strong increases in performance in the last one or two years by a number of colleges. That is clearly something which would have been difficult to pick up in a process across thousands of centres.

However, it would be very helpful for you to make clear the appeal process for colleges in that position and promise prompt consideration. Our hypothesis is that the worrying results might be a quirk of the process, in which smaller centres with lower student numbers systematically had their centre assessed grades confirmed, resulting in a hit for the larger centres in order to minimise overall grade inflation.

We also believe that the algorithm may not have taken value added data into account adequately.

A technical review now could examine that and would avert hundreds of colleges from having to make individual appeals. It would show that you are being transparent and taking the concerns seriously. It would allow the majority of students to focus on their next steps and move forward in confirming their HE places, apprenticeships or jobs but also offer a robust backstop.

It would calm the mood and we would warmly welcome it and support you in carrying it out. We will, of course, continue to encourage colleges and students to focus on progression and to be positive about the prospects of young people.

It is clear that the majority of students will achieve the grades they need and want, but that is not sufficient for the process to be deemed fair if it has been systematically biased against college students and/or disadvantaged students.

We recognise fully that this is an exceptional year and have worked closely with DfE and OfQual officials, as well as with awarding organisations to support the approach taken. We are fully committed to working with you moving forwards to help ensure a resilient and robust system which we can all be confident in. But we cannot stand by when the evidence suggests that many thousands of students may have missed out on their grades because of a systemic bias.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Yours Sincerely,

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges

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