15-16 August 2020 – the weekend’s press release

Algorithm used for A-Levels and GCSEs should be scrapped

Responding to reports that the exams regulator is reviewing its guidance on how to appeal A-level and GCSE grades using mock exam results, just hours after publishing it, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

Young people are being let down, and the confusion and uncertainty emanating from the Government is only making the situation worse. Things are getting ridiculous.

There has been mistake after mistake after mistake with Gavin Williamson over the last few of months.

The algorithm used for A-Level grades has clearly not worked and therefore should be scrapped with teacher grades used instead. The latest news that Ofqual has published guidelines, only to retract them hours later, is further proof that we need to go back to relying on centre assessed grades. With GCSE results looming, I am calling on the Government to use teachers’ grades too.

Boris Johnson has always promoted loyalty over competence. To claw back some public confidence, Gavin Williamson must go and the Prime Minister must cancel his holiday and come back to listen to pupils, parents and teachers. We need urgent clarity before more young people have their futures stolen.

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  • Andrew Toye 17th Aug '20 - 1:54am

    Whilst not wishing to be against progress and technology, I do think that the over-reliance on algorithms and artificial intelligence poses a potential risk to social justice and democracy. Government should be ‘of the of the people, by the people and for the people’ (Lincoln) and not for the unaccountable authors of computer programs.

  • Nonconformistradical 17th Aug '20 - 7:11am

    @Andrew Toye
    Quite – and any such algorithms which are used by our supposedly democratic government should be open to public inspection. There would be people out there with the appropriate knowledge and ability to scrutinise them properly.

    If the ‘government’ thinks it has got this right then what has it got to hide?

  • Algorithms are only as good as the stats that a person feeds it. Also they are fixed in the sense that all are treated the same.However pupils are all different and can even have a bad day on sitting the exam. Algorithms make us all the same machine learners. We are ALL individuals.
    Pupils should be graded BY THE TEACHER.

  • @Andrew Toye – Whilst not wishing to be against progress and technology, I do think that the over-reliance on algorithms and artificial intelligence

    There is no such thing as artificial intelligence; there are only algorithms. AI is just a obfuscated reference to a particular class of algorithms. I suspect one of the reasons is that it allows people (such as the vendors of self-driving vehicles) to say that it wasn’t their fault when their AI/computer that causes an accident…

  • Peter Watson 17th Aug '20 - 1:58pm

    “Gavin Williamson must go”
    Quite possibly, but Lib Dems need to make a really good case and explain the differences between the situation in England and Wales (preferably without mentioning Coalition reforms not implemented in Wales) if they are to avoid calling for the Welsh Education Secretary to go as well without looking inconsistent.

  • David Evans 17th Aug '20 - 2:14pm

    n hunter – Only if we have absolute confidence that teachers, schools and academy trusts, all of whom are judged by how well their students do in exams, would not assess their student’s grades so highly as to distort the entire system, nor devolved politicians seek popularity by siding with young attractive people who have been disappointed against an embattled bureaucracy trying to maintain standards.

    As it says “If the results had purely been based on the estimates from [Scottish] teachers, pass rates at grades A-C would have increased by 10.4 percentage points for National 5, by 14 percentage points for Higher and by 13.4 percentage points for Advanced Higher.” No rampant Grade inflation there then.

  • David Evans 17th Aug '20 - 3:08pm

    Even now Kirsty has been forced to back down from her sensible compromise (using a student’s AS level results from last year as a moderating factor in Wales) by Nicola Sturgeon’s populist headline grab in Scotland and Labour back benchers in Wales sacrificing yet more academic standards in favour of short term popularity and votes.

    Perhaps some of us have at last learned a lesson or two in realpolitic survival from the disaster that was coalition.

  • Peter Watson 17th Aug '20 - 3:48pm

    @David Evans “No rampant Grade inflation there then.”
    If every teacher’s prediction was 100% “accurate”, I think there would still be a significant increase in pass rates and grades because in a normal year I would expect far more students to underperform compared with their potential (e.g. because of unexpected circumstances) than to overperform. It is not possible to predict who would have have been unlucky or had a bad day so the moderation process is attempting to spread that misfortune across the whole group but with some horrid (and I am sure, unintended) side-effects.

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