At the start of the month many of us were looking forward to receiving A-level and GCSE awards for our aspirational teenagers who had been cut-off from the opportunity to prove themselves in the final lap. At stake for the teenagers in our family was an offer from Cardiff Uni (to follow History) for Immy and A-level options for Max.
At around 8am on Saturday 15th August 2020 a total of 731,855 A-level results were issued to students based on this algorithm: Pkj = (1-rj)Ckj + rj(Ckj + qkj – pkj). OK with that? No, not OK, not good!
The UCAS website crashed within a few minutes of publishing the results (so not properly tested then?). Initially, only the students that had gone into school could obtain their awards, via their teachers who had access to an alternative online access to the students. Immy had gone into school to collect her results, and was shocked to find out she’d been substantially down graded. Fortunately, within minutes of receiving this new she had confirmation from Cardiff (via another teacher with access to their system) that her downgraded results were still acceptable. Inevitably some of her friends did not fare so well.
Within hours of the UCAS website coming back up it was pretty clear that a significant proportion of approximately 274,000 students and been awarded wildly inappropriate grades. All media channels became increasingly inundated with examples of gross inaccuracies and injustices throughout the day and the algorithm that was used to calculate the grades was at the centre of the controversy.
Scotland ‘bottled it’ first and announced that students could use ‘centre assessed’ grades in favour of algorithm results where it was felt that the algorithm had unfairly penalised the candidate. This (of course) put students from Scotland at an unfair advantage over everyone else and uproar ensued for the rest of the weekend.
Eventually, late on Monday 17th the Education Secretary announced England would follow Scotland’s lead and the rest of the UK followed suit. By the time the announcement was made, however, many Universities had already filled their places for the courses in highest demand. This was a really bad outcome for all those students who would now have to re-plan and in many cases miss-out completely on the first big step towards their intended career.
A couple of days after the A-level awards fiasco it was announced that GCSE awards would also be based on centre assessed grades.
After much posturing, the man at the top of the food-chain Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, remains in post at the end of the month. Of-course, he has declined to take any responsibility what-so-ever, instead choosing to blame the OFSTED line of command.