Altered A-level pass marks to ensure pupils not disadvantaged


Pupils taking the reformed A-levels can expect lower pass marks to ensure they are not disadvantaged, the head of exams regulator Ofqual has indicated.

Using a system known as ‘comparative outcomes’, grade boundaries will be set lower so that the proportion of pupils receiving each grade is roughly the same as in the past.

Those getting their results are among the first to take the reformed courses – introduced by former education secretary Michael Gove – which lack coursework or modules.

Sally Collier, chief executive of Ofqual, has look to assure teaching staff that the current cohort of pupils will be “treated fairly” and will not be disadvantaged as a result of being the first to sit the exams.

In a letter to headteachers, Ms Collier said: “We know that students tend to perform less well in the first years of a new qualification, as teachers are less familiar with the content and style of assessment, and there tend to be fewer past papers and other resources.

“Using statistics [to set grade boundaries] compensates for this expected small drop in performance so that students in the first cohort are not disadvantaged.”

In addition to 13 reformed A-level subjects first sat in 2017, 11 new subjects were sat for this first time this year, including geography, music and modern foreign languages.

Chair of the Independent Schools Council, Barnaby Lenon, added that although A-levels will be more demanding, pupils will be “protected by comparable outcomes”.

Meanwhile, a report from Buckingham University has suggested that boys’ results will improve this year, given that more subjects now focus on exams rather than coursework.

Its author, Professor Alan Smithers, suggests that boys are more likely “to throw themselves into a final revision effort for an exam to see what they can do”.