NEWS17 August 2020

Statistics body calls for exam results review

AI News Public Sector UK

UK – The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) has requested a review of the statistical models used by qualification regulators to assess this year’s exam results.

Exams hall_crop

RSS president Deborah Ashby and Sharon Witherspoon, the society’s vice-president of education and statistical literacy, have written to the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) to ask that it conducts a “formal review” due to concerns over quality and trustworthiness.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and Ofqual have faced criticism over algorithmic models used to award Higher and A-level results for school pupils, after examinations were cancelled due to Covid-19.

In England, almost 40% of the assessments made by teachers were lowered by one or more grades during the Ofqual standardisation process. Last week, the Scottish government scrapped the moderated grades after 125,000 pupils had their results downgraded from teachers’ estimates.

Both systems have been criticised for penalising pupils who attend historically lower-performing schools.

“We believe that a review is essential to address the issue of the extent to which the qualifications regulators did indeed adhere to their obligation to serve the public good,” the RSS said in the letter. “We ask in particular whether the models and processes adopted by the qualification regulators did in fact achieve quality and trustworthiness.”

The Information Commissioner’s Office has said it is working with Ofqual to understand how it has handled the process.

A spokesperson for the ICO said: “We have been engaging with Ofqual to understand how it has responded to the exceptional circumstances posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and we will continue to discuss any concerns that may arise following the publication of results.

“The GDPR places strict restrictions on organisations making solely automated decisions that have a legal or similarly significant effect on individuals. The law also requires the processing to be fair, even where decisions are not automated. Ofqual has stated that automated decision making does not take place when the standardisation model is applied, and that teachers and exam board officers are involved in decisions on calculated grades.”

Ofqual could not be reached prior to publication.