Teacher Opinion: A Level Results, A "Fiasco"

As the outcry over the A Level results grows since their release on Thursday WhichSchoolAdvisor was contacted by a teacher & examiner based in the UAE keen to provide their analysis of events to date
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
Do your children attend a Saudi Arabia school? Take our survey and help other parents.
WhichSchoolAdvisor's annual school survey.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

Following what can only be described as the A level examination grade awarding fiasco (and we have more to come next week with GCSE), I thought I would put forward my thoughts as a teacher/head of department of 25+ years on the very upsetting lack of consistency that has been applied in awarding the 2020 series.

As well as being a teacher, I have been an examiner for one of the UK exam boards since 1999 and have worked in both UK and Independent schools and internationally on and off for 10 years. I currently teach here in the Middle East.

So let’s start with the algorithm that has been used by the UK exam boards. It’s certainly a good starting point to use the last three years of exam trends. But, wait a moment - first and foremost this does not credit developing departments, changes in specifications and teachers.

Then we hear that this algorithm was used for subjects with high numbers of cohorts and subjects with small numbers had their centre assessed grades (CAGs) simply accepted. The CAGs were essentially the predicted grades made by the professional judgement of us, the teachers who know the students best.

As a Deputy Head of Academic at a leading UK independent school told me: ‘’Not accepting the CAGs undermines our professionalism and suggests a lack of integrity in not trusting our judgement. Scotland seems to think differently.

"In our school there is also a bias against STEM subjects as they have applied the algorithm meaning this year if a student took three sciences and Maths, they would likely receive lower grades than a counterpart who opted for languages or creative subjects where there were smaller cohorts.’’

Let’s now go to more inconsistency: AS (that some schools do) versus what was the old A2 (the linear A level now). Talking to my colleagues in the UK, AS seems to be largely untouched but the A Level grades have been downgraded.

I spoke to a former colleague in the UK today who manages a Maths department in a large Sixth Form College and she said with dismay that her AS results stayed the same but A Level Maths and Further Maths were downgraded even though they based their CAGs on the three year trend, and had the same tewo teachers who have taught these courses for the last six years.

As she told me: ‘’I would like to find the algorithm and apply it directly and see what I get. So if they went on three year trend (same teachers) and the fact the cohort was small.... surely our data should have been similar if not better than previous years?’’

Well, yes, if common sense had prevailed.

Exam boards are now saying that students on appeal can take their mock grades from earlier this year. That is great but what about those students who didn’t sit mocks for example in China when it went into lockdown.

On the topic of exam boards, International A Level (IAL) subjects are still modular and so many of these students were awarded grades who had sat external exams this year and therefore had some grades banked so to say. IB students had their Internal Assessments (IAs) externally marked this year and this was used in awarding. Again all very inconsistent.

There is also the possibility that students can sit exams in the October/November series this year, possibly remotely. As an examiner, the alarm bells are already ringing. It also seems that rankings were used by exam boards but our predicted grades were largely ignored so I would question a) why did we bother doing predicted grades at all and b) clearly our professionalism means nothing in the sector we work in.

This is yet another example of how undervalued we are by the UK Government. I hate to say it but a game of paper, scissors, stone might have generated more realistic grades. So what should have been used? Simply put - teacher predictions.

The argument for not using teacher predictions was that overall results would have been overinflated. To me this is nonsense. Everyone knows what has happened this year so surely give students the break they deserve having had their final year of their school education ruined. Employers in years to come will know that 2020 was a washout year out and can figure out if the degree and degree class a student has gone on and achieved makes them worth employing.

Latest Saudi Arabia articles
Courses & Curricula

Online Exams: The Future for GCSE, A Level & IB?

Students will sit on-screen GCSE exams this year in a major trial by exam board Pearson Ed…

Exam Preparation

It's Exam Season: How Do I Support My Teen?

The spectre of exam season is looming, with IB, GCSE and A-levels all slated to begin in M…


Internet Usage, IT skills, Gaming Boom in Saudi

Saudi Arabia's internet usage and IT skills are booming with a rapidly the growing Gaming …


Eid Al Fitr 2023: 4 Day Holiday in Saudi Arabia

Employees in the private and non-profit sectors will enjoy a four-day break to mark Eid Al…


Saudi School Calendars and Public Holidays

The KSA Ministry of Education has not yet published the Academic calendar for the next 202…

Choosing A School

King's InterHigh, The Metaverse, IB and KSA

Online schools are here to stay – and being physically present in a traditional clas…

School Performance

World Bank Praises Planned School Reports

Saudi Arabia’s Education and Training Evaluation Commission (ETEC) will begin to eva…

School Performance

Ofsted Urged to Pause UK School Inspections

Education unions in the United Kingdom are urging Ofsted to suspend all school inspections…

0 Schools Selected
keyboard_arrow_down keyboard_arrow_up
Your selection Clear All