Disadvantaged pupils are likely the biggest winners from this year's GCSE results, claims a Guardian article.
Nearly 550,000 year 11 pupils in England received their grades on Thursday 20th August. For the very first time results were based entirely on assessment rather than examination, with the government scrapping exams back in March due to the pandemic.
It’s a contrast to the uproar of A-level results day. A-level grades were initially based on a statistical model by Ofqual, but the government took a U-turn and switched to centre-assessed grades (CAGs) set by teachers and schools instead. The same CAG model has been used for GCSE results.
Ofqual figures released at the beginning of summer revealed that its algorithm would probably lead to a slight widening in the attainment gap in GCSE results for pupils on free school meals compared to pupils who aren’t.
However, reverting to the CAGs means that, in total, “more students will receive higher GCSE grades this year than in past years,” commented general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Geoff Barton.
“This is because schools may, understandably, have given some students the benefit of the doubt when they are on the borderline between two grades and they had the capability to achieve the higher grade.”
FFT Education Datalab analysts said lower-attaining schools are usually the most optimistic in their teacher assessments. These schools also tend to show the fastest improvement in a normal year.
However, Ofqual’s data for school-based assessments demonstrated an even higher improvement rate. It showed almost a 10% increase in pupils getting a grade 4 or above – a 4 being the bottom of the old ‘C’ and considered a ‘good pass’.
The GCSE grade 4 is a vital grade as it allows pupils to go into further study or training. If they don’t get a 4 in maths or English, they need to resit exams while staying in post-16 education.
The progress of disadvantaged pupils has remained almost unchanged over the past three years. This is according to a report from Teach First, which uncovered that 45% of disadvantaged pupils got 9-4 grades in maths and English, compared with 72% of non-disadvantaged pupils since 2016-17.
Popular colleges and sixth forms are likely to be put under increased pressure as a result of the surge in higher grades. Numerous colleges have already reached capacity and there is a limit to the amount of pupils they can accept, the Sixth Form Colleges Association has warned.
The association’s deputy chief executive, James Kewin, said: “In many respects, the immediate challenges faced by sixth-form colleges mirror those faced by universities – increased demand for places combined with pressure on space because of Covid restrictions.
“We have been pressing the government to introduce a capital expansion fund for sixth-form providers over the past couple of years, and action is now needed on this as a matter of urgency.”
The DfE said it has offered an extra £560m next year to help improve school and sixth-form college buildings, in addition to over £1.4bn allocated this year.
Some colleges will be admitting all students who have applied, regardless of grades. Julie Mills, group principal of the Milton Keynes College group, commented: “Everyone who’s applied to study with us after their GCSEs is now guaranteed a place.
“Not everyone will necessarily be on their course at the level they originally applied for but they will be eligible for education or training to start them off on the road towards the career they want and deserve.”