What outcomes did Ofqual find from 2020 exams?


The system used to award this summer’s exam grades did not disadvantage poorer pupils or those with protected characteristics, Ofqual has said.

An in-depth technical analysis from the exams regulator looked into the grades achieved by pupils based on gender, special educational needs, ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status, and by their eligibility for free school meals.

It sought to address concerns that using similar approaches in 2021 could introduce inequalities or impact upon pre-existing issues.

However, the analysis found there was “no evidence that either the calculated grades or the final grades awarded this year were systematically biased against candidates with protected characteristics or from disadvantaged backgrounds”.

Assessing outcomes

Outcomes from 2020 A Level and GCSE exams, including centre-assessed grades, calculated grades and the final grades awarded to the pupils, were compared with results from 2018 and 2019.

The report did note some evidence that around 6,300 GCSE entries with previously low attainment scores and unknown socioeconomic status may have given “disproportionately overestimated grades”, with the majority of those entries coming from independent schools.

According to the regulator, the studies found that the “most consistent significant effect” of using centre assessed grades was “an uplift in outcomes” not seen with calculated grades.

The analyses concluded that using centre-assessed grades would have been closest to characteristic and outcome trends seen with past GCSE and A Level results.

Having been closed as a result of measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, schools were asked to grade pupils and to rank them based on performance to provide outcomes.

Exam boards then standardised the results using a computer algorithm, although the government was forced to backtrack on the idea after many outcomes were downgraded as a result.

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