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Parents in more affluent areas ‘putting pressure on teachers’ over exam grades

Teachers in England have submitted decisions on pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades after this summer’s exams were cancelled.


Teachers say they are coming under pressure from affluent parents after exams were cancelled again (PA)

Teachers say they are coming under pressure from affluent parents after exams were cancelled again (PA)

Teachers say they are coming under pressure from affluent parents after exams were cancelled again (PA)

Around one in five teachers at schools with affluent intakes say parents have pressured them over their child’s exam grades this year, a survey suggests.

Nearly one in four (23%) of teachers at private schools and 17% at state schools in advantaged areas have been approached or pressured by parents over grades, according to a Sutton Trust report.

Just over one in ten (11%) of state school teachers in poorer areas reported being put under pressure, the poll has found.

Teachers in England have submitted their decisions on pupils’ GCSE and A-level grades – which are being awarded in a fortnight – after this summer’s exams were cancelled for the second year in a row.

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

The report identifies a big variation in the number of assessments being taken by A-level students to determine their grades this summer.

Almost two in five (38%) teachers said their pupils were doing three to four “mini-exams” or in-class assessments per subject, according to the survey.

But the poll of more than 3,000 teachers in England suggests that 18% reported two or fewer and 18% reported more than six.

Next month, students will find out what A-level grades they have been awarded and whether they have secured their first-choice university place after the pandemic has caused disruption to learning.

Also for the research, a poll of more than 400 university applicants suggests that nearly half (47%) believe the pandemic disruption will negatively impact their chance of getting into their first-choice university – and particularly those applying to the more traditionally selective Russell Group institutions (56%).

A majority of applicants (53%) are worried about being ready to start university this autumn, and around a third (34%) feel unprepared to start university, the survey suggests.

Those from a state school (36%) are more than twice as likely to feel unprepared for starting university compared to their independent school peers (17%).

As we approach results day, it’s vital that poorer students are not disadvantaged by the greater impact of the pandemic on themSir Peter Lampl, Sutton Trust

The Sutton Trust charity is calling on schools to provide as much support to students as possible around results day, and for universities to give additional consideration to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds who have narrowly missed their offer grades amid pandemic disruption.

It adds that the Government should extend pupil premium funding, which is targeted at  poorer pupils, to students in post-16 education from next year, and they should receive increased “catch up” funding.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “This year’s cohort of university applicants have faced almost two years of disrupted education. As we approach results day, it’s vital that poorer students are not disadvantaged by the greater impact of the pandemic on them.

“Universities should give additional consideration to disadvantaged students who have just missed out on their offer grades.

“The Government’s consultation on university admissions is a positive step forward. The trust recommends moving to a system of post qualification applications where students apply to university with their grades in hand.

“This should prevent low-income students from being disadvantaged and make the system fairer for everyone.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Many teachers have had the additional strain of coping with pressure from parents.

“We know these parents think they are doing the best for their children. But it is yet another issue which has added to the stress of an extremely stressful period. And grades are of course based on evidence of student performance rather than whose parents have the sharpest elbows.”

He added: “Universities will need to have in place educational and pastoral support for their new undergraduates to ensure that learning loss and wellbeing issues are addressed early on and that these young people are able to take advantage of the full opportunity provided by higher education.”

Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “Come results day every pupil must be supported to progress with their education, training or employment, not just the most privileged.

“The Conservatives have treated children and young people as an afterthought throughout this pandemic.

“Ministers must now urgently set out the support that will be available to pupils, parents and teachers on results day to ensure no young person loses out on future opportunities due to their failed pandemic response.”

Those parents who tried to influence teachers’ judgements behaved wronglyDr Michelle Meadows, deputy chief regulator at Ofqual

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The big issue here which the Government has failed to address is the way that the pandemic is hitting the most disadvantaged students the hardest.

“In order to avoid this for students expecting to sit exams in 2022, it is vital that all adaptations to exams, advance notice information and support materials are available for teachers from this September.”

Dr Michelle Meadows, deputy chief regulator at England’s exams regulator Ofqual, said: “Although exams didn’t take place, students will receive grades so they can move on with their lives.

“Those parents who tried to influence teachers’ judgments behaved wrongly.

“Exam boards provided guidance to schools and colleges on recording and reporting any such activity.

“This was important as it was essential that teachers’ already difficult task was not made more difficult by having to deal with these unacceptable pressures.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “There is no one better placed to judge young people’s abilities than their teachers. Students have only been assessed on what they had been taught, supporting students who may not have had the opportunity to learn as much as they would do in a normal year and meaning that teachers have effectively made their assessments based on every student having their best day.

“No teacher should be put under undue pressure and grades are subject to wider internal checks in schools and external checks by exam boards to make sure they are a fair reflection of students’ work.”

– Teacher Tapp surveyed 3,221 teachers in schools across England who reported that they were teaching a GCSE or A-level exam class between June 24 and 25. YouthSight polled 463 school leavers across the UK who have applied to university through Ucas this year between June 19 and 25.

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