In response to the Government’s handling of the A-level grading process this year, Munira said:

“I would like to wish my congratulations to every A-level student who has received their results this week. The disruption to the academic year caused by the pandemic has been unprecedented and immensely challenging for students and their families. Pupils have shown great resilience in response to adversity and they should be proud of what they have achieved.

But far too many young people have been let down as a result of the Government’s shambolic handling of the whole grading process. Despite the warning signs from Scotland, the Education Secretary pushed ahead with plans that ignored teachers’ advice and created an unfair system that disproportionately affected pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This has left many students’ hopes and dreams in tatters. Young people and their parents are understandably angry after receiving grades below what they expected. Some have missed out on their preferred university place as a result of the Government’s botched grading system.

Gavin Williamson must take urgent action to remedy the situation and take responsibility for his mistakes. This must include measures to ensure pupils have the chance to appeal their grades directly and to present evidence that reflects their performance and progress at no cost. Ministers must also provide clear guidance on how re-sits will work and do much to ensure universities exercise greater discretion and flexibility in these unprecedented circumstances.

It is utterly unacceptable for any student to be downgraded based on their family income, or any other factor. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will do all we can to support pupils in the fight to ensure their futures are not robbed by this Government’s incompetence.”

Munira writes to Gavin Williamson

Munira has written to Gavin Williamson, the Secretary of State for Education, demanding that he takes urgent action to remedy the situation. The full text of the letter is below:

Dear Gavin  

Like colleagues across the House, I have been inundated with e-mails in the last twenty-four hours from young constituents and their families who are understandably shocked and angered by the A-level grades they received yesterday and the uncertainty they now face regarding their future.   

I very much share the concerns of these young people that, having already faced unprecedented disruption to their studies and uncertainty following your decision in March to cancel this summer’s exams, they have now been fundamentally let down by the assessment process and are left facing the prospect of sacrificing a year of their lives to get into their university of choice, through no fault of their own.      

It is becoming clear that the statistical model used during the standardisation procedure is flawed and unreliable.   

As you will be aware, Ofqual’s data shows that almost 40% of the centre assessed grades provided by teachers were lowered by one or more grade.  This has led to huge variations between the CAGs and the final grades provided by Ofqual and results which do not reflect those of previous years, thereby rendering the standardisation process worthless.  In my constituency, initial responses gathered from schools by Richmond Council suggests that a significant proportion of CAGs have been downgraded by Ofqual, in some cases amounting to 45% of all of those submitted.  

Ofqual’s data also shows that the standardisation process has had a disproportionately negative impact on the most disadvantaged students: Ofqual’s Deputy Chief Regulator, Michelle Meadows, acknowledging yesterday that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds were more likely to have seen a bigger downward adjustment in their grades.  85% of candidates classed as having a low socio-economic status by Ofqual had been predicted to achieve a C and above by their schools, however this fell to 74.6% following standardisation.  In comparison, the proportion of students with high socio-economic status awarded a C and above fell by 8.3%. 

The impact will be further compounded by the fact that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to mount a successful appeal against their grades, thereby further widening the attainment gap.   

I therefore urge you to act quickly and decisively to ensure that no young person’s future is blighted by this deeply flawed grading system. 

Students who believe that their grades do not provide an accurate reflection of their academic performance must be allowed to appeal for free, as is the case for their counterparts in Scotland and Wales.  They must also be provided with clear and timely advice on the appeals process and timescales.   

In spite of your reassurance yesterday that universities have committed to be flexible with most considering a wide variety of factors in addition to the grade awarded, it is clear from the conversations that I have had with constituents that this is not happening in practice.  Indeed, all those I have spoken to so far have had their offers withdrawn by their preferred universities due to the lower grades and many are similarly struggling in clearing.  The Government must therefore once again press universities to exercise leniency when it comes to admitting students who are awarded lower grades than predicted, especially if they come from a disadvantaged background.   This is particularly true for those universities who are offering courses to international students at a lower grade than the grades of the student whose offer they have withdrawn, as has been one constituent’s experience.   

Finally, there is widespread confusion and uncertainty amongst those contemplating resits in the autumn, particularly in relation to preparing for these assessments and how they will then be able to secure a university place.   The Government must therefore put in place clear and timely guidance as to how the reassessment process will work and ensure that students are able to sit these examinations at no cost to themselves.        

Yours ever,