Most parents say awarding grades based on teacher assessment is ‘unfair’

·4-min read

The majority of parents think awarding students their GCSE and A-level grades based on teacher assessments is unfair, a survey suggests.

More than two in five (41%) would give Education Secretary Gavin Williamson a U grade and a further fifth (20%) would give him an E to G grade for his recent performance, according to the Mumsnet poll.

The findings come as schools across England are starting to break up for the summer holidays after a year of turbulence amid the pandemic.

More than half (54%) of parents say awarding teacher-assessed grades – which is being used this summer – is not a fair process for students taking their GCSEs and A-levels this year.

The survey, of more than 1,100 parents with school-aged children in June and July this year, suggests that a quarter of parents think there could have been a better solution to make the system fairer.

Teachers in England have finalised decisions on their pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades after this summer’s exams were cancelled for the second year in a row.

Schools and college staff have drawn on a range of evidence when determining grades, including mock exams, coursework, and in-class assessments using questions by exam boards.

Next month, students will find out what grades they have been awarded after months of disruption to learning amid the pandemic.

The survey suggests that nearly three in four (73%) parents believed the grading process in summer 2020 – where grades were awarded by an algorithm before the Government U-turned – was unfair.

Only 7% of parents were happy with how the Government handled the assessment of GCSEs, A-levels and other qualifications last summer.

It comes after the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students in 2020, when end-of-year exams were cancelled amid the pandemic.

Thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm, before Ofqual announced a U-turn, allowing them to use teachers’ predictions.

Only 1% of parents gave Mr Williamson an A or higher when they were asked to grade his performance.

Meanwhile, more than two in three (68%) agree that teachers should get a pay rise next year and three in four (76%) say they are happy with how their children’s schools handled lockdowns.

The survey suggests that the majority of parents disagree with the Education Secretary’s assessment of pupils’ behaviour amid the pandemic, with 52% saying “out of control behaviour” and “children being slow to readjust to the classroom” has not been a problem in their school.

Looking ahead to the next school year, 79% of parents say they are worried about continued disruption to education and 46% are worried about Covid-19 continuing to spread in schools.

Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, said: “Many parents found home schooling during lockdown a monumental struggle, but it seems clear most blame the Government, not schools.

“In particular, they believe Gavin Williamson’s performance requires significant improvement.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “This feedback from parents is a ringing endorsement of the superb performance of schools during the pandemic and will be music to the ears of teachers and leaders after a torrid term in which Covid is once again wreaking havoc on attendance.

“It is also patently clear that the Government must raise its game and provide more support to schools and colleges instead of constantly leaving them in the lurch.

“A good start would be a much more substantial education recovery package than the meagre offering that the Government has so far managed to come up with.”

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Students and their families have every reason to be confident in this year’s results, even though there have been no exams.

“The results are based on students’ actual work, which has been assessed by the people who know them best – their teachers. The grades have been moderated and quality assured.

“There are no algorithms this year, just human effort and human expert judgment.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It would not have been fair for exams to go ahead this summer due to the disruption to pupils’ education, which is why those who know students best – their teachers – are determining grades and enabling young people to progress to their next stage of education or employment.

“Grades are being signed off by school leaders and are subject to checks by exam boards, so parents can be confident that the grades will reflect students’ abilities and young people can feel hugely proud of their achievements.”

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