How unfair are the coronavirus A-level results?

After examinations were cancelled because of the coronamvirus pandemic, the results of this year's A-levels, the UK's university entrance qualification exams, were calculated using an algorithm. This process has resulted in grades that in many cases are significantly lower than those predicted by teachers. Students from disadvantaged families are reportedly worst affected, while students from private schools are said to have benefited.

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The Guardian (GB) /

Social inequality deepened

Students and parents have every reason to be angry, The Guardian says:

“That wealthy pupils and fee-paying schools could tighten their grip on elite universities as a result of the pandemic is not just unfair but grotesque. Yet this is the prospect England faces: a future of entrenched inequality digging in another notch. By using schools' past performance to determine this year's A-level grades, ministers chose to favour those with long-established advantages over the up-and-coming. Evidence shows that pupils from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to have had their teachers' grades overruled ... For a country that is supposed to have rejected the rigid hierarchies of the past in favour of social mobility (at least in principle), results day could hardly have gone more wrong.”

The Economist (GB) /

No big deal

There's no need to be up in arms, The Economist argues:

“Judging students by their schools rather than their own achievements strikes many as unfair, but the system may end up being no more inaccurate than it usually is. In 2018 Ofqual published the results of a multi-year investigation into marking. An experienced examiner marked papers in 14 a-level subjects and then compared the grades they gave with the ones awarded by the normal process. In around a quarter of cases the senior examiner awarded a different mark. ... However things work out for this batch of students, they will have a better-than-usual chance of getting into the college of their choice. Universities are desperate for domestic students to replace the foreigners who won't be turning up next term.”