Fears BAME and low socio-economic students will get wrong grades due to unconscious bias

By Maia Lowerson

Thousands of students across the U.K. are getting their predicted grades instead of having to sit their exams this summer. 

But according to research from the University College Union predicted grades are unreliable with only 16% of students achieving the results they were predicted. 

This has led to students, particularly those from Black and low socio-economic backgrounds, speaking out online about how unconscious bias in the grading system has affected them.

Alaya was predicted C’s and D’s for her GCSE exams and attained A*-C grades.

She said: “Sometimes there may be cultural differences behaviour between teachers and black students.

“For example, black students wearing Afro hairstyles is often seen as bad behaviour and met with punishment, but to a black student it would just be a fashion choice.

“If these differences are not discussed it can lead to students being seen as disruptive and therefore receiving lower predicted grades.”

A spokesperson for the National Education Union said: “We aim to ensure that all teachers complete unconscious bias training to reduce the risk of students being unconsciously stereotyped based on their background. 

“We do not tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind from teachers.”

James Turner, CEO of The Sutton Trust, said: “Each year there are around a thousand high achieving low income students that do better in their exams than their teachers expected.

“We are very worried that using predicted grades students will result in stereotyped students being unable to prove their abilities.”

Maya was meant to go to her dream University this year, but if she gets her predicted grades she will no longer be able to attend.

Maya said: “After proving myself in my mock exams I convinced my teachers to change my UCAS predicted grades so that I could apply for my dream University.

“I was confident if I sat my exams I could achieve grades ABB but if the teachers choose my original predicted grades then I won’t be able to go to University this year at all.

“I think there will be long term negative effects for people especially those who are unable or don’t want to go to University because low grades will make it harder for them to get work.” 

Ian Dexter, an Ofqual spokesperson, said: “We believe the process of calculated grades we have set out is fairest in the circumstances, none the less we recognise, and take seriously, concerns about the potential for students to be disadvantaged by the approach being taken this summer. 

“We have put measures in place to ensure, so far as possible, that students are not disadvantaged on the basis of their socio-economic background or their protected characteristics.

“Students who are unhappy with the grades they receive this summer will have an opportunity to take an exam in the autumn.”