‘No algorithms whatsoever’ – teachers to rule on pupils’ grades

Written by Eleanor Langford on 26 February 2021 in News

Education secretary confirms that technology will not be used again

Credit: Eric E Castro/CC BY 2.0

The education secretary has confirmed that teachers in England will have control over their students' grades this year with “no algorithms whatsoever” involved in the process.

While full details of how the grading system works would be announced on Thursday, Williamson told a Downing Street press conference that "this year we're putting our trust firmly in the hands of teachers”. 

The government came under fire in summer 2020 after it used a controversial algorithm to allocate GCSE and A-Level students their final grades, leading to a significant number of students being awarded grades lower than those they were predicted.

Critics said the system hit disadvantaged students the hardest, and there was anger over the lack of clarity from exam regulator Ofqual regarding whether mock exam results could be considered as the basis of an appeal. Ministers were ultimately forced to abandon the system, announcing that all A-level and GCSE results awarded in England could be based on teacher-assessed grades.

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Following the closure of schools in January amid the nationwide lockdown, the government announced summer exams in 2021 would also be cancelled, and launched a consultation into how grades could be awarded this year. In light of the consultation, Ofqual recommended that “a student’s grade in each subject will be based on their teachers’ assessment of the standard at which the student is performing”.

“In the absence of exams, teachers are best placed to assess the standard at which their student is performing,” it added. 

The government is yet to confirm its plans for exams this summer, but Williamson insisted that the system would involve “no algorithms whatsoever”.

He also said that schools were on track to reopen fully on March 8 and insisted that the government was “willing the successful return for all our children”. 

“We are supporting this return with a robust testing regime that will be critical in breaking the chains of Covid infection,” he said. 

The government has also announced secondary schools are to be given an additional £400m in funding to run summer schools to help students catch up on lost learning. It includes a £302mi Recovery Premium, which will see every primary school handed £6,000, and secondaries £22,000, to support pupils most in need. And £200m will be available to secondary schools to deliver the face-to-face summer schools.

But Labour has dismissed the funding as “inadequate, arguing that the new package is worth less than the £840m spent on the Eat Out to Help Out scheme last year.

The party said it would be worth just 43p per pupil per day, if the money was split across a normal school year.


About the author

Eleanor Langford is a reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared. She tweets as @eleanormia.


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