A-level results ‘another failure of those in authority’, say Haberdashers’ heads

The headteachers said the process has left them both “deeply disappointed”

The heads of the Haberdashers’ schools have said this year’s A-level grading process is “yet another failure of those in authority to prioritise the interests of the young people they are meant to serve”.

Both said the process has left them “deeply disappointed”.

In a letter sent to the education secretary this afternoon, Gus Lock, headmaster at The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, and Rose Hardy, headmistress at the Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, said they “feel strongly that the vagaries of the system have let pupils in England down”.

“Today it has become clear that, in many cases, an algorithm has generated results which do not do justice to students. In many schools and in many academic departments, the results awarded are not only much lower than the Centre Assessed Grades, but actually well below any grades awarded in recent years. Despite assurances from Ofqual, in too many cases there seems to be no clear relationship between the historical data and the grades awarded,” they said.

The heads called on the education secretary Gavin Williamson to follow the decision taken in Scotland to dispense with the moderation system entirely. “It is hard to see how anything less can now be fair,” they added.

This last-minute decision does more to deflect criticism, than helping children – Gus Lock and Rose Hardy, Haberdashers’ schools

Writing in the Daily Telegraph yesterday, Mr Williamson, appeared to rule out that possibility. He warned this would inflate grades, “devalue” exam results and harm students’ “future career prospects”.

Mr Williamson yesterday apologised to every child for the disruption to their education caused by Covid-19 and admitted there were “things we would take a different approach on”.

But in a stinging attack on his handling of the debacle, the school leaders branded Mr Williamson’s “last-ditch concession” on appeals “a fig-leaf”.

“Ignoring the fact that much depends upon whether a student has sat a mock at all (and when in the course of the academic year it was sat), mock results tend almost always to be lower than final outcomes each summer. Mock results can never provide a fair and consistent substitute. This last-minute decision does more to deflect criticism, than helping children,” they concluded.

Mr Lock and Mrs Hardy are not alone in their criticism of the government’s handling of public examinations.

Frankly, I have little confidence that grades awarded this week will still be the same in a weeks time – Shaun Fenton, Reigate Grammar School

The headmaster of Solihull School, David EJJ Lloyd, said: “It is with great sadness that I must also express our considerable disappointment at how grades have been decided upon by the various examination boards this year.

“Results for the school this year are the lowest they have been for several consecutive years and a large number of pupils and subjects have been downgraded from our recommendations, some pupils by more than one grade in certain subjects.

“We have started the process of pursuing the matter and we will continue to do so over the days and weeks ahead.

“Recent media reports suggesting that mock examination grades may be used to redress downgraded outcomes are simply not good enough and very misguided. Mock exams are taken at different times of the year by individual schools, often with resit opportunities, and many pupils improve in the time period between the mocks and the real thing, some significantly so.”

The head of Reigate Grammar School, Shaun Fenton, described A-level results this year as “an omnishambles”.

He said the biggest mistake was not incorporating scope for an appeals process from the beginning, but he also blamed last-minute U-turns for undermining confidence in the system.

“There may be some merit in these ideas but who can tell? There are so many voices shouting in the fog. Frankly, I have little confidence that grades awarded this week will still be the same in a weeks time. A week is a long time. This plays havoc with university decisions; our students deserve better,” he said.

He said Ofqual should announce “a generous and significant invitation for a rapid appeals process, on a range of reasonable grounds so that where their generally good systematic review of CAGS has resulted in an unfair result then that result can be reviewed and changed”.

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