DAILY MAIL COMMENT: It’s a hard lesson, but grade inflation had to end
It’s impossible not to feel sympathy for pupils who took their A-levels this year.
First their GCSEs were horribly disrupted by Covid lockdown, then their A-level studies were hampered by the slow recovery from the pandemic and teacher strikes.
Now, they are also having to pay the price of grade inflation over the past three years, the product of over-generous teacher assessments taking the place of exams.
Between 2019 and 2022, the number of As and A*s shot up from 25.4 to 36.4 per cent. For the integrity of the system to be maintained, this rampant grade inflation had to be reversed.
So this year the proportion receiving top grades was cut to 27.2 per cent, 9.2 points down on last year (though still the highest ever, excluding the Covid years).
First their GCSEs were horribly disrupted by Covid lockdown, then their A-level studies were hampered by the slow recovery from the pandemic and teacher strikes
As a result of tougher marking overall, 19,000 missed their required grades this year, putting them among a record 61,000 scrambling for places through clearing.
Many will be aggrieved that they are being more harshly treated than the cohorts of the past three years. Covid wasn’t their fault, yet they’re being punished for it.
Students in England have particular cause to complain. The other countries of the UK decided not to return to pre-pandemic grading until 2024, so their results yesterday were still artificially high.
But although there are arguments around whether the pre-pandemic system could have been re-introduced more gradually, there’s no question it had to happen.
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The teachers responsible for over-assessing their pupils’ A-level grades in recent years no doubt meant well, but some went too far.
At one private school, the proportion of A* results rose from 33.8 per cent in 2019 to 90.2 per cent in 2021. Such rapid inflation does no one any favours.
It corrodes the value of the qualification and makes it more difficult for universities to determine how academically well equipped individual applicants are for higher education.
It is probably no coincidence students whose A-level results were graded by teachers during the pandemic have been dropping out of university in record numbers, unable to keep up with the work.
There is good news in yesterday’s results, however, with 79 per cent of applicants being accepted by their first choice (compared with 74 per cent in 2019) and a further 12 per cent getting their second.
As more than 50,000 students find their places through clearing every year, and many others opt for apprenticeships, internships, or gap years instead, there is still a good chance that all will be accommodated. And confidence in the grading system will be restored.
‘Parkinson was in many ways the antithesis of today’s celebrity presenters’
If Michael Parkinson had never appeared on television, he would still be remembered as a master of his journalistic craft. His sports writing, newspaper columns and humorous articles for Punch magazine were always required reading.
He then brought all those journalistic skills to a glittering television career, first as a film critic, then as the premier chat show host of his day – arguably any day. His self-effacing, everyman style and soft Yorkshire tones put his guests and his audience at their ease.
Parkinson was in many ways the antithesis of today’s celebrity presenters. He was well prepared, did his own homework and always made sure his shows were about the guests rather than himself.
He would prompt them with a searching question, then allow them to answer at length. The calibre of the stars who happily chatted away with him – from Ingrid Bergman and Orson Welles to Muhammad Ali and John Lennon – were testament to his subtle skills. His passing is mourned but his legacy lives on.
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