A computer algorithm will punish pupils from struggling areas with lower grades as exams are replaced by estimates, Labour fears.

The party is urging the education secretary to step in after what it called the “disastrous handling” of results in Scotland where 125,000 marks – a quarter of the total – were lowered.

Some 15.2 per cent were cut in the poorest communities, compared with just 6.9 per cent in the most affluent areas, Labour said – because “prior attainment” in schools was used.

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

It showed “what can go wrong when computer algorithms drive students’ grades, and politicians wash their hands of responsibility”, said Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary.

A-level results will be released next week and GCSE results the following week – but formal exams were scrapped because of the Covid-19 pandemic and schools’ shutdown.

In a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson, Ms Green wrote: “It’s imperative the government acts now to reassure worried students, teachers and parents.

“Young people deserve to have their hard work assessed on merit, but the system risks baking in inequality and doing most harm to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, those from ethnic minority groups and those with special educational needs and disabilities.”

Results are calculated using estimates made by teachers based on a pupil’s performance over the school year but are then moderated.

Disappointed pupils in Scotland, handed lower grades than they achieved in prelim exams, are claiming they have suffered because they are from less affluent areas.

Opposition politicians have warned of a “deluge” of appeals and accused the Scottish Qualifications Authority of treating the professional judgement of teachers with “contempt”.

The latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox

Register with your social account or click here to log in

The row comes after Mr Williamson was accused, in June, of ignoring warnings that “unintentional bias” will penalise poorer and ethnic minority pupils this summer.

The Runnymede Trust told MPs it had written to him about the looming potential danger, but he had failed to respond.

In her letter, Ms Green alleged that “a generation of young Scots” had been failed, adding: “We cannot allow that to happen here in England next week.”

She urged Mr Williamson to explain “what protections the government is putting in place” to prevent a repeat south of the border, and explain the support on offer to pupils planning to make appeals.

College and university leaders might need to be more “flexible when making offers”, she suggested.

But Mr Williamson said: “No system could be a perfect substitute for real exams, but Ofqual [the exams regulator] has made every effort to ensure this summer’s grades are awarded fairly, setting out their working transparently for students, parents and teachers.

“We have put in place a package of support and guidance to minimise adverse impacts on students, including the chance to sit exams in the autumn.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Coronavirus test to be offered to over-65s with symptoms – Hancock

Over-65s and those who work outside the home will be able to get tested for coronavirus if they have symptoms in a huge expansion of the eligibility criteria, the health secretary has announced. As the government seeks to hit its…

Trump ‘apoplectic’ with Johnson over Huawei decision, report claims

Donald Trump was “apoplectic” with Boris Johnson during a phone call to discuss the British prime minister’s decision to allow Chinese firm Huawei a role in Britain’s 5G mobile phone network. Citing unnamed officials in London and Washington, the Financial…

House passes resolution formally denouncing Trump tweets as racist

Washington — After a bitter partisan brawl, House lawmakers on Tuesday approved a resolution to formally denounce President Trump’s recent tirade against four progressive congresswomen of color, with four Republicans joining Democrats to rebuke the president. The measure passed by…

Ofqual chief to face MPs over exams fiasco and botched algorithm grading system

Ofqual’s chief executive, Sally Collier, is expected to be hauled before MPs early next month to face questions about the exams fiasco, it has emerged. Collier has made no public appearance or statement since the exams regulator announced it would…