Flagging extra learning loss alongside grades will make exams fairer

How do you make exams fair? It’s a challenge that has vexed the greatest education minds for centuries. But never have so many people thought so hard about this question than for national school examinations in 2021.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson last week spoke about putting “fairness into the system” as he unveiled a package of measures for GCSEs and A-levels in England. The measures include advance notice of exam topics, exam aids, and more generous grading (in line with that for 2020). All are justified for pupils who have suffered widespread disruption in the wake of the pandemic. Not least it will provide clarity for teachers about what lies ahead next summer – and for over a million stressed teenagers currently in the midst of their mock exams.

But in my view the biggest question of fairness remains unresolved. How do we recognise the extra learning loss experienced by some pupils, particularly those from the poorest backgrounds? Covid-19 has exposed the stark social class divide that lies outside the school gates. Reduced schooling has left the world an even more unequal place. Read More

The National Tutoring Service

Lee Elliot Major, Emily Tyers and Robin Chu

We believe a National Tutoring Service (NTS) could help tackle stark education gaps in the wake of the Covid-19 school closures. The NTS is a proposed coalition of tutoring organisations, universities and schools to mobilise undergraduates and graduates to help improve the achievement of disadvantaged pupils in the core subjects of English and Maths across the UK. The service would have multiple benefits: boosting volunteering among undergraduates, offering employment for graduates, and helping teachers in their efforts to level-up education’s playing field. Read More

How will flaws in predicted grades affect this year’s students?

Lee Elliot Major is Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter.

A version of this blog was published by the Daily Telegraph.

It’s one of those puzzling aspects of our university system that has always caused controversy. In the UK, unlike any other country in the world, students apply for university degrees not with their actual grades, but with grades predicted by their teachers. Universities give conditional offers on the basis of these predicted grades. Offers, under normal circumstances, are then confirmed when students get their actual A-level grades. Read More