‘The right and fair thing’: A-level results U-turn welcomed in North Devon

Students in a protest outside Downing Street in London over the government's handling of A-level res

Students in a protest outside Downing Street in London over the government's handling of A-level results. Thousands of pupils across England have expressed their disappointment at having their results downgraded after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus. Picture:: Victoria Jones/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A U-turn in the way A-level and GCSE results are awarded to pupils in England has been welcomed in North Devon.

Results in England will now be based on teachers’ assessments of their students, unless the grades produced by the controversial moderation algorithm are higher, exam regulator Ofqual announced on Monday (August 17).

The Government was urged to act after thousands of students across the country were downgraded when they got their A-level results on Thursday (August 13).

Petroc had been preparing to lodge an appeal with Ofqual after many of their students’ results were ‘unfairly’ downgraded, meaning some would not meet their university entry requirements.

The college said the number of A and A* grades had fallen by more than 8 per cent when compared with 2019.

Petroc principal Sean Mackney said the U-turn was ‘the right and fair thing’.

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“This algorithm was clearly flawed – it discriminated against the best,” he said.

“The Government has done the right thing and the fair thing now and we are pleased our students can now focus on the next stage of their education.

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“The last few days have been really tough on our students not knowing if they were going to get into the university of their choice and I am really pleased that they now don’t have to worry about that.

“It has been an intense few days and all my colleagues have put in the hours over the weekend because we wanted to get this right.”

Petroc was also among the further education providers to commit to accepting school pupils based on their centre assessed GCSE grades – which are due on Thursday – before the Government announcement.

Mr Mackney added: “It will be a great weight off their minds. They can relax and we look forward to seeing them in September.”

Because no exams could take place due to the coronavirus pandemic, teachers were asked to submit the grades they thought a student would receive and then these were moderated by the exam board – reports say that nationally two in five grades had been downgraded.

One student who saw her results downgraded was Lois Best, who saw her predicted A, B and C grades in biology, geography and chemistry turned into two Bs and a D, meaning her offer to study Anthropology at Exeter University was withdrawn.

The 18-year-old said she was relieved to have her predicted grades reinstated.

“I was in so much shock to start with – I still had not really processed it and have been sobbing and sobbing for the last few days,” she said.

“This turnaround is a shock, but with what would have been the unknown of an appeal it’s a relief I don’t have to do that any more.

“However, I still feel for those who may have missed out on their university places – for them it’s not good news.”

North Devon MP Selaine Saxby said she believed the decision was the ‘right one’ for students in North Devon.

She said she wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson overnight on Friday having spoken to local headteachers.

She said: “As a former maths teacher myself, I was more than a little surprised to find that appeals were being lodged on behalf of every single A-level maths student in North Devon. Maths is a relatively straightforward subject to predict, so that alone rang alarm bells for me.”

“I do believe it was right to attempt to moderate grades, as normally happens with GCSEs and A-levels. However, the algorithm in my mind was fundamentally flawed and to try to run an appeals process for the volume of students involved would only prolong what was already a very difficult situation for far too many students.”

North Devon Liberal Democrats’ Alex White said the decision was a ‘victory for common sense’.

“We are pleased to hear about this result, which will support young people in North Devon - especially those at Petroc who were disproportionately impacted,” said Mr White.

He added: “This U-turn is a victory for common sense and rightly answers calls from Liberal Democrats and others, but it should never have gone this far.

“There is still a long way to go to clean up this mess. Government must provide the clarity young people need, including supporting and resourcing universities to ensure all provisional offers are honoured. We’ve always called for placing trust in North Devon’s teachers, not some suit in Westminster.”

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