A Levels: changing letters to number grades would just be ‘tweaking the system’ and government needs ‘rethink’ - Labour

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said the government “shouldn’t be just playing around with the grading system”

It comes as nearly half of A-levels – 44.8 per cent – were given an A or A* on August 10 amid concerns that the grades have become ‘meaningless’, The Telegraph reports.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Labour has called on the government to rethink its priorities after record numbers of students were awarded the top grade at A levels
  • Ministers are thought to be considering an overhaul of the marking system amid concerns that “grade inflation” is undermining confidence in the qualifications
  • Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the problems of not having a standardised assessment system during the pandemic had been “starkly exposed” by the gap in grades between private and state schools and there should be a move to a hybrid system based on coursework and exams 
  • Her calls comes amid speculation that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson could face the axe in a Cabinet reshuffle later this year after he was widely criticised over last year’s A levels fiasco when the government used an algorithm to “moderate” the results
  • Education expert Natalie Perera, chief executive of the Education Policy Institute, said pupils who had access to a computer and good broadband at home tended to do better, as did those with schools more able to provide equipment for home learning

What’s been said

“I think that is just tweaking the system to get the government out of a difficult story,” Green told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“We shouldn’t be just playing around with the grading system here, we should be thinking about the quality of teaching and learning that children are receiving.

“The government didn’t set down a clear standardised process early on last year and schools, therefore, were really awarding grades in very different ways.”

She added: “I think the lesson is that we need a collaborative approach with education professionals to design a robust, workable system which is fair to all students,” she said.

“In my view that probably needs a mix of assessments throughout the period of study, over the two years of the A-level course for example, and an examination.”

A Levels this year were determined by teacher judgement, with grades being signed off by the head of department and head teacher or principal being before being submitted to the exam board.

No algorithm was used this year to assign grades, with schools or colleges instead telling pupils the evidence that was used to determine grades.

A range of evidence could have been used to decide a grade, including mocks, tests and work that pupils have already done.