Human-centric AI news and analysis

England ditches its shitty exam result algorithm after it penalized poorer students

Grades will now be based on teacher assessments

English school-leaving exam results will now be based on teacher assessments after the government scrapped a controversial algorithm that downgraded nearly 40% of predicted grades.

The U-turn came after evidence emerged that students from fee-paying schools had disproportionately benefited from the algorithm, which used a formula based on a school’s historical results and each pupil’s attainment.

In response, the government said students could appeal the results or resit exams in the fall. But a wave of student protests and a backlash from Conservative MPs have convinced the government to revert to center-assessed grades for both A-levels and GCSEs, the exams taken by 18 and 16–year-old students respectively. However, students who had their results marked up by the algorithm can keep the higher grade.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced the decision just days after the “cast-iron” guarantee that there would be no U-turn.

[Read: Algorithm that determines school exam results risks ‘baking in inequality’]

“We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process,” he said.

“We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A- and AS level and GCSE results. I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents, but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve.”

The move was welcomed by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who called it “a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard this past week.”

However, it will also lead to further chaos at universities, which will have to cope with an influx of students who now have the grades they need to get places at their first-choice institutions. What a mess.

So you like our media brand Neural? You should join our Neural event track at TNW2020, where you’ll hear how artificial intelligence is transforming industries and businesses. 

Published August 18, 2020 — 11:09 UTC