A-Level Students Launch Legal Challenge Against Ofqual

After the use of a controversial algorithm resulted in the downgrading of A-level results across England, students have taken legal action against the examination body.

Curtis Parfitt-Ford, an 18-year-old student, wrote a 22-page letter to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation decrying the system as “irrational, arbitrary, fails to take account of relevant considerations”, and claimed that it was unlawful. His aim in taking legal action, he wrote, was to “force [Ofqual] to come up with a fairer system”.

The Good Law Project is backing six other A-level students in a legal challenge against Ofqual, and has raised £60,000 via crowdfunding to cover their legal costs.

A-level and GCSE students were not able to sit exams this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing social distancing measures rendering traditional examination methods impossible. Their results were determined using Ofqual’s standardisation algorithm, which combined teachers’ predicted grades with historical performance data from schools and colleges.

Figures from Ofqual show that around 39.1% of teachers’ predicted grades were lowered by at least one level upon results being issued. Pupils in disadvantaged areas were disproportionately affected by the downgrading.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has ruled out England following the route of Scotland, which threw out algorithm-generated results on Tuesday and has stated that it plans to follow teacher assessments instead.

If you don’t go to a successful school you don’t deserve to succeed either – strip away all the science and that’s what’s delivered by the system Ofqual and Gavin Williamson have put in place,” said Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project.

It’s not fair, it’s not good enough, and hard-working students should not have to stand for it.”

Further confusion was created as Ofqual withdrew its guidance on appealing against A-level and GCSE grades using mock exam results within hours of publishing it on Saturday. In a brief statement, the body said that the guidance was “being reviewed”, with further information to be released “in due course”.

Dan Rosenberg, an education lawyer at Simpson Millar, spoke of the “emotional distress” experienced by the A-level students he is representing. “We would urge the government to act quickly to resolve this matter and to make sure that those who are still awaiting their GCSE results later this week do not have to suffer in the same way,” he said.

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