15 August 2020
Bright students who have worked hard to achieve university offers to study courses such as medicine and veterinary medicine, as well as some biomedical sciences and maths-based degrees, have failed to secure their places because of statistical ‘bumping down’ of grades, Girls’ Schools Association Heads have said.
Numerous GSA schools are experiencing the same phenomenon, where the maths and science subjects required for vocational science degrees have fallen foul of the statistical model.
Some schools are reporting that up to 86% of biology A levels and up to 95% of chemistry A levels have been ‘down-graded’ from the school’s centre-assessed grade. In one school, 8 out of 9 girls who have lost their university place are medics; they now plan to sit their exams this autumn and delay starting their studies by a year. Some have decided to repeat the whole year. One or two have been fortunate that their university has offered to hold their place over to 2021 pending the results of their appeal.
Alex Hutchinson, chair of the Girls’ Schools Association education committee, said:
“There has been an impact on those choosing vocational courses which require particular combinations of popular A Levels.
“Within GSA schools, this is most noticeable in girls who have chosen medicine, worked incredibly hard to be made offers, have been awarded school assessed grades which reflect their ability and which would meet their university offers but, because they are not the absolute top-ranked students in their cohort, they have missed out on the A Level grades that we are confident they would have achieved had they sat the exams.
“They have missed the grades because of the ‘bumping down’ which has occurred in the process of the statistical allocation of grades. As a result, they have lost their place to study medicine and, given the vocational nature of the course, have no option other than to change their career plans or take a gap year in order to sit exams in the autumn series.”
Lucy Elphinstone, Headmistress of Francis Holland School, Sloane Square, where some aspiring medics have lost out, said:
“The irony is that we clap for the NHS and bemoan the shortage of doctors and nurses but our home-grown ones are being blocked before they start.”
One aspiring medic who has lost her university place had every one of her grades adjusted, her maths by 2 grades. She was one of 15 exceptionally strong maths A level students in her school, who each achieved 8 or 9 in their maths GCSE.
Her head teacher said:
“We confidently assessed this group would achieve 10 A*s, 4 As and 1B. Due to the Ofqual model, the actual results were 6 A*s, 6 As, 1 B and 2 Cs. Seven out of the 15 students went down at least one grade and, for this particular student, her A Level maths went from a confident centre-assessed grade of A to a C, simply because it fitted the model.”
Her mother said:
“My daughter spent lock down working as a health care assistant in the community, looking after frail elderly people in their own homes, and now she has lost her medical school place through this arbitrary application of statistics. It’s not clever, it’s not robust and it’s not fair. Universities have not been flexible with medical applicants. She cannot move on. I am also extremely concerned that the children sitting autumn exams are being set up to fail. She is going to repeat the year.”