Together with the Equality Act Review, last week we published a nationwide study, looking at the negative impact of the Government’s decision to predict GCSE and A-level grades. It builds on our earlier work, “Predicting Futures” which revealed 80% of students (sample of 803) were concerned about their predicted grades, with 85% of respondents from BAME backgrounds.
Experts have long suggested BAME students are most disadvantaged in grade predictions however, the study found bias extended this. Other types of bias included Islamophobia, favouritism, bad behaviour, class and learning style. Despite efforts to engage with the Government and Ofqual to mitigate the potential bias, recommendations were ignored, to the detriment of millions of students.
“Predicting Futures 2.0” now illustrates the exacerbation of negative educational, social, and economic impacts for already penalised identity groups such as BAME, lower socio-economic backgrounds, northern towns and cities, religious minority groups, and women. The findings indicate that of the total 2091 respondents, 57.9% were from households below the national average income, 53.6% belonged to minority religions, and almost 60% were female. The study reports that a high proportion of respondents (76.7%) had predicted grades that were not only an under-estimate of their abilities, but also lower than what teachers had predicted for them, with 64.6% missing out on their university offers. It was also found that over 80% of respondents were denied access to further or higher education, which caused over half of all respondents to experience mental health difficulties, which has worsened the current attainment gap.
As the MP for Manchester Gorton, which has one of the highest child poverty rates in the UK, I know full well the importance of opportunity for young people. The report shows that the existing BAME attainment gap has been exacerbated by this pandemic and widened inequality. The effect of lower grades and missed opportunities means that young people were denied of their future. These concerns need to be looked at and addressed.
My colleague and friend, David Lammy MP argues, “My own constituency of Tottenham is one of the most diverse in the country; many of my constituents write to me about their own experience of implicit bias that they face from staff and fellow students. To put it bluntly, they simply cannot trust that the system will be fair to their siblings and children. As long as there is bias in the system, a system of predicted grades will reflect that with cruelty”. The author and founder of the Equality Act Review, Dr Suriyah Bi said, “As a working class, state educated, first generation to go to university, I would never have gone on to study at Oxford and Yale if my grades were predicted. Stories like mine are common and under pandemic conditions are likely to worsen.”
The report received national coverage and our exclusive with Sky News captured the key findings from the report which should shame the Government into action. I encourage you all to engage with this report, its findings, and recommendations. You can read my foreword and the report in full here.