Northern Ireland news

A-level pupils 'fear the worst' ahead of predicted grades

Young people will receive predicted grades this year

A-LEVEL pupils have said they are "expecting the worst" ahead of an extraordinary results day.

With exams cancelled due to Covid-19, young people will be given results based on predicted grades by their teachers and their schools' historical data.

Exam boards have also moderated the grades to ensure this year's results are not significantly higher than before.

A similar system in Scotland saw First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologise after students were downgraded, with those living in the most deprived areas reduced by 15 per cent compared to 7 per cent in the most affluent parts.

In Northern Ireland, the CCEA exams board has already said that without standardisation of teachers' predicted grades, the proportion achieving A*-A this year would have jumped dramatically to more than 40 per cent.

For the last three years, about 30 per cent of entries in the north have been awarded an A* or A.

Northern Ireland is at an advantage over England in that it retained the AS-level as part of the overall A-level qualification.

The A-level standardisation model has relied partly on data from AS-levels already taken. Previous research has shown there is a strong correlation between AS and A-level performance.

However, some pupils have voiced concerns that the way grades are calculated in the absence of papers could penalise some.

There are fears that basing grades on factors including homework could disadvantage children from single-parent families.

Others have said they are concerned that working class areas will be negatively affected.

CCEA has already moved to reassure young people.

It said that data supplied by schools was based on a wide range of evidence including coursework, mock exams, homework and other previous student achievements.

The standardisation process will mean that final grades will at times vary from those predicted by the teacher.

Experts say there can sometimes be a positive and unconscious bias in some teachers' grades because they want pupils to do well.

CCEA said it was confident that the approach it took was the best solution under exceptional circumstances. Every stage has been checked and rechecked. Expert statisticians and education professionals have advised or reviewed and tested every aspect of the process, it said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said it was understandable that there was "anxiety" over exam grades.

"Clearly, because of what has happened this year, there is some anxiety about what grades pupils are going to get, and everybody understands the system - that the teachers are setting the grades, then there's a standardisation system," Mr Johnson said.

"We will do our best to ensure that the hard work of pupils is properly reflected."

Pupils in England and Wales appear especially concerned.

Cheyenne Williams, from Barnhill Community High School in north-west London, said she felt her school year have been "guinea pigs".

"I'm expecting the worst scenario possible at this point. I have doubts that grades will be allocated on a fair basis," the 18-year-old said.

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