Coronavirus hasn’t been great for young people. Although you are more likely to not face physical health issues, in terms of job prospects, money and the impact to mental health things aren’t looking too peachy.

Last week the Education Select Committee in Parliament looked into the grading systems this year in schools and their conclusion is pretty concerning. Have a read to find out what impact Coronavirus could have had on your education.

A lack of fairness

The Committee received a lot of evidence discussing the potential for unconscious bias to affect calculated grades. Particular groups, including pupils from low-income backgrounds, black, Asian and minority ethnic pupils, and pupils with special educational needs and disabilities could be negatively affected.

Ofqual’s standardisation model aims to adjust grades to ensure they are broadly in line with previous years. But the committee raised concerns about the risks of using historic data, which might not be fair for newer schools, or for improving and turnaround schools which are on an upward trajectory.

Essentially, the appeals system favours the ‘well-heeled and sharp-elbowed’ who know how to navigate the system. The criteria of bias and discrimination set out by Ofqual will be incredibly hard for individual students to ascertain and to prove. After pressure from the Committee, Ofqual have agreed to a helpline but this does not go far enough to level the playing field.

The Education Committee recommends pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, or their families, must be able to see the evidence used to calculate their grade. If the right access arrangements were not in place for the work used or if evidence from SEND specialists was not used if appropriate, the pupil should be able to appeal on the basis of malpractice or maladministration.

Lack of support for students sitting autumn exams

Autumn exams are let’s face it pretty depressing. The Committee thinks the department for Education needs to set out how students will be supported with teaching ahead of sitting these exams.

Catch-up funding is unavailable for post-16 students:

The pandemic’s impact on the loss of learning for young people does not stop when pupils turn 16. Post-16 learners, whether they are resitting key English and Maths GCSEs, or preparing to sit final exams before entering higher education or the workplace, deserve proper catch-up support. The Education Committee recommends the Government should extend catch-up funding to include disadvantaged post-16 pupils to ensure this is not a lost generation.

We spoke to Robert Halfon MP, and the Chair of the Education Committee, who said: “The cross-party committee recognises the enormous work clearly undertaken by the Department for Education and Ofqual during the coronavirus pandemic and accepts that no system developed for awarding grades will be perfect.

Robert Halfon MP, chair of the Education Select Committee

However, we have serious worries about the fairness of the model developed by Ofqual. There is a risk it will lead to unfair bias and discrimination against already disadvantaged groups and we are far from convinced that the appeal system, which will be more important than ever this year, will be fair. The appeals process seems to favour the well-heeled and sharp-elbowed and there is the potential for the system to resemble the Wild West of appeals with different systems used by different exam boards.

The lack of guaranteed support from the DfE for pupils and students doing autumn exams means there isn’t a level playing field for those students. The absence of a post 16 catch up fund exacerbates these problems.

We urge Ofqual to be fully transparent about their standardisation model and develop a state-of-the-art appeals system that is genuinely fair to all students whatever their background. There is still hope that all young people will get what they’ve earnt but Ofqual and the Government must act now so this generation can go on to flourish in their future work and education.”

So, it’s pretty clear that there are some huge issues around making sure young people’s education doesn’t suffer, particularly those most vulnerable in our society.

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Last Update: April 29, 2024