Teacher-assessed grades unfair, suggests poll of parents

A poll of more than 1,000 parents suggests a quarter think the grading process this year could be improved

A poll of more than 1,000 parents suggests more than half believe that the system of teacher-assessed grades for GCSE and A-level results this year is unfair. 

In a survey of 1,100 parents in England with school-age children by Mumsnet, 54% said the process that allows teachers to assign grades independent of a national moderation system is unfair. A quarter of parents said they thought there could have been a better solution to make the grading system fairer.

The system for grades this year – which is more accurately described as centre-assessed grades process – was only announced by ministers in February. 

The survey suggests that the solution to exams this year – launched by an education secretary who said he would “put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms” – is more popular than the situation that unfolded last year. 

Three in four (73%) said the grading process in summer 2020 – in which grades were ‘adjusted’ by an Ofqual algorithm before a spectacular government U-turned – was unfair.

Forty-one per cent would give education secretary Gavin Williamson a U grade for the way he has handled the impact of coronavirus on the education system – and a further 20% would give him an E to G grade. Just 1% said he deserved an A grade for his performance. 

Research published in May by Queen’s University Belfast and Goldsmiths College suggests that teachers’ grades could be biased towards students with more “agreeable” personalities by up to 10%, compared with results in anonymous exams. But teachers this year have been asked to evidence their teacher-assessed grades, perhaps with results from controlled assessments or work. 

Kate Green MP, Labour shadow education secretary, said of the survey: “The Conservatives’ poor planning and preparation has created a second year of exam chaos.

“Teachers have worked non-stop to get approved processes in place for awarding grades, but they have been let down by late decision making from an incompetent Conservative government which has treated children as an afterthought.” 

Writing in the Independent, defending the process, Prof Geraint Jones said: “Come results day in August, we need to be celebrating teachers’ hard work in helping our children get through it all, rather than focussing on cries of bias or foul play, unprofessionalism and grade-inflation.”

Read more: Consultation on A-level and GCSE 2022 exams gets underway

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