Should coronavirus spell the end of predicted grades?

For those of us working with school sixth forms, sixth form colleges and FE colleges with large numbers of university applicants, we are being presented an ever-changing set of “known unknowns”. Such as, when will the lockdown end? Will there be a second wave? Depending on when the lockdown ends, will there be sufficient time to teach the syllabus?

For current year 12 students in school, we are facing a new Gordian Knot of how do we create a predicted grade for our students applying for university. These students, under normal teaching conditions, may have only completed one-third of their syllabus.

What to base predicted grade on?

So, if we assume that the process will not be as rigorous as centre assessed grades for the current year 11s and 13s, what do we base the predicted grade on? ALPS, GCSEs, mocks, classroom tests done before a chosen date (which is different for every institution)?  

Do we allow them to submit extra work if they are not happy with their prediction? Do we make the assumption that they will be back in early June and run mocks in early September? It goes on and on.

What if we pull ourselves away and look at the bigger picture? Predictions have always been a very inexact science, and so is the difference between what many universities say they want and what they accept.

What if a vaccine isn’t discovered? We could be under repeated lockdowns. We might have just to wait and see how much education has been done in Sixth Form and award a centre assessed grade or exam result at the end of the two years and then have post qualification application after sixth form has finished. The current system of making university applicants apply with a set of (often wrong) predicted grades for university courses with often inflated conditional offers is a game that is unfit for our current times.

What about apprenticeships? 

An issue that I have noticed with apprenticeship applications is that most employing organisations are simply not as obsessed with grades, predicted or otherwise, as universities.

Many sixth formers start on Advanced Apprenticeships, and they are happy with GCSE grades including Maths and English, very occasionally asking for A-Levels/BTEC. Even when we look at Higher and Degree Apprenticeships, they are usually still not as obsessed with high grades as universities because they know their application processes are more reliable than grades, predicted or otherwise. 

While apprenticeship applications can be competitive, with a different set of hoops to jump through, at least there will be less stress from needing sky-high grades, based on ever-shifting sands.

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