Up to 2,000,000 GCSE results 'to be downgraded' with disadvantaged hardest hit

As many as two million GCSE grades could be forced down by the same Government algorithms that left so many A-Level students disappointed, a new analysis has found. 

Pupils may again discover they have dropped one or more grades from their teachers’ recommendations when they pick up their results next week, according to education experts, with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds likely to be the hardest hit.

The Guardian reports the FFT Education Datalab research unit expects the proportion of grades being downgraded to be in the region of 35-40% – a similar figure to the 39% of A-Level grades affected this week. 

GCSEs are taken by around 700,000 schoolchildren in England, who in a normal year would sit five million individual exams.

Thousands of headteachers have called on the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to explain how he intends to avoid a repeat of the ‘serious injustices’ seen when A-Level pupils found out their results on Thursday.

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A statement released by the Worth Less? campaign made up of school leaders said: ‘We fear that such injustices will occur on a massive scale when GCSE grades are published next week.

‘That’s why thousands of responsible headteachers are demanding that the secretary of state make an urgent public statement explaining to pupils and their families how and why the standardisation process has failed so many and confirming exactly what the Department for Education will do to put things right and avoid a ‘GCSE debacle’ next week.’

With all exams cancelled this year, results are being decided by algorithms instead. Regulator Ofqual asked teachers to assess and rank their pupils and submit their recommendations. Moderators then take into account factors like the recent historical performance of a school and the academic track record of each pupil to come up with a final grade. 

On Thursday, despite a higher number of the top grades being awarded on average, 280,000 entries were downgraded overall. Many students found they’d been awarded D’s and E’s when they’d been predicted A’s and B’s. 

The Government has said the results were ‘robust’ and pupils can sit exams in the autumn if they felt they were unfairly penalised. 

Philip Nye, a researcher at the Datalab, told the Guardian: ‘We found that schools that were lower-attaining and with more disadvantaged intakes were submitting higher grades, so we think that GCSE results will see more disadvantaged pupils have their results lowered through the moderation process.

‘There are more disadvantaged pupils taking GCSEs than there are at A-levels, so potentially downgrades could be more widespread.’

Headteachers fear a poor set of results at GCSE will permanently harm students’ chances of progressing into further education or finding work in a tough economic climate. 

Another set of controversial results is likely to heap pressure on Mr Williamson who has faced calls to resign because of the way he handled the A-Levels process. 

Mr Williamson has insisted that ‘checks and balances’ were needed to ensure consistency across the country or some schools would have assessed all their pupils as achieving the top grades.

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