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“Flattering” A-level grades could result in universities setting own exams, Ofqual adviser says

Universities may have to set their own exams after “flattering” A-level grades later this year, an Ofqual adviser has said. 

Barnaby Lenon, a member of the exam regulator’s standards advisory group, stresses admissions tutors must not be “naive” to think school leavers who will attend university in the autumn will be adequately prepared to start a degree.

Mr Lenon, who is also chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said: “The important thing is for universities and school sixth forms to realise that some students will have had very flattering results. 

“The first thing that should happen is for universities to run some sort of diagnostic test to discover what they know and don’t know and then provide catch-up.”

He told The Telegraph that this was especially crucial for courses which build on A-level knowledge such as maths, modern languages, and science, adding: “Where a degree course assumes a certain knowledge, that level might not be there this year.”

The chairman argued that universities would need to run remedial classes in the autumn term for the students who missed a considerable amount of their A-level course.

There are some students who will have missed half of the past year. They will need to catch up in subject knowledge and also in study skills

– Barnaby Lenon

“There are some students who will have missed half of the past year. They will need to catch up in subject knowledge and also in study skills. 

“Universities are perfectly capable of doing that. It’s just important not to be naive. An A or a B grade student might require more catch up than in previous years.”

Mr Lenon’s comments come as ministers prepare to respond to a consultation on the alternative assessments for GCSE and A-level students. 

Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, announced on 5 January that GCSE and A-level exams were cancelled. Exams are set to be replaced by teachers’ predicted grades, which may be informed by mini external assessments.

In 2020, A-level marks increased by 12% and GCSE marks by 9%. This occurred after an algorithm was scrapped and teachers’ predicted grades were used instead. Predicted grades are being used again this year, as well as mini tests.

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