London personal faculty investigated over ‘blanket’ A or A* grades in 2021 A-levels | Non-public faculties

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A prestigious personal faculty in London has confronted a number of investigations into the best way it awarded examination grades in 2021, when all its A-level entries acquired A* or A, the Guardian has discovered.

Senior leaders and academics on the North London Collegiate faculty (NLCS) have been positioned underneath investigation for alleged malpractice in setting teacher-assessed grades, which changed formal exams cancelled by the federal government as a result of of the Covid pandemic.

Sources on the £22,000-a-year ladies’ faculty mentioned greater than 20 circumstances involving NLCS had been handed to malpractice committees convened by A-level examination boards, which held a sequence of confidential hearings this month.

Whereas a number of the malpractice allegations have been dismissed, others have been upheld by the committees. Findings from the hearings aren’t publicly accessible and the committee’s deliberations are confidential.

A spokesperson for Pearson, the examination board concerned within the investigations, mentioned: “We take allegations of malpractice very severely and examine all these put to us. The place malpractice is discovered we’ve methods in place to make sure, so far as doable, that acceptable sanctions are taken in response to the proof. We can’t touch upon particular person circumstances.”

The varsity declined to state what number of malpractice investigations or hearings involving NLCS had taken place.

A spokesperson for NLCS mentioned: “The method and findings of any such investigations are confidential between the examination board and the events. Nonetheless, we will verify that there was no discovering of centre [school] malpractice by NLCS.”

The NLCS spokesperson later added: “We are able to verify that the investigation has concluded.”

The revelations will reignite the controversy over the record-breaking variety of prime grades given by unbiased faculties in 2021, with the proportion of A*s up almost 150% on 2019, when formal exams have been final held.

NLCS’s extraordinary outcomes have been put within the highlight in February after the Sunday Instances reported the college gave A* grades to greater than 90% of its A-level entries in 2021, the very best within the nation and a 56-percentage-point improve on the 34% who achieved the grade in 2019.

The cancellation of formal A-level and GCSE exams in 2021 led to grades as a substitute being awarded by instructor evaluation utilizing inner processes. This gave faculties vast latitude over the grades awarded to their pupils.

Proof handed to the Guardian from academics and dad and mom at NLCS prompt the college was ready to award the very best doable grades to its pupils. One inner message from a senior chief suggested employees to “work to make sure the scholars have a superb day, in the best way we body the assessments”, including: “That means, each pupil has the potential to get the grade they might get, relatively than those they’d get.”

Lecturers have been warned that speak of grade inflation was “actually unhelpful” and instructed as a substitute that “assessing in an alternate means” was going to “benefit our college students”. Employees have been additionally instructed: “[There is] clear route that our grades this 12 months don’t have to match earlier years’ grades.”

A employees assembly in March 2021 was instructed: “These grades will in all probability be the very best grades the college has ever achieved … We might be working inside the system to create the benefit for them [the students].”

A letter despatched to dad and mom the identical month outlined how the college deliberate to alternate classes with quick assessments of the themes they’d simply studied. “We stay assured that this technique of preparation, adopted by evaluation, will afford our college students the very best alternative to maximise their grades,” the letter mentioned.

Employees who complained concerning the procedures mentioned they have been assured that rival faculties have been going to subject inflated grades, which means NLCS college students could be deprived and will lose out on college locations.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow schooling secretary, known as for a full investigation by the Division for Training. “These findings will do nothing to dampen suspicions that sure personal faculties have been gaming the system in the course of the suspension of exams on account of Covid,” Phillipson mentioned.

“It’s time for the schooling secretary to launch her personal investigation into the evaluation of grades throughout Covid to ascertain simply how widespread this exploitation was.

“Labour would finish personal faculties’ tax breaks and use the cash to take a position in a superb state schooling for everybody.”

The hearings involving NLCS are the primary affirmation of the investigations revealed by Dr Jo Saxton, the chief regulator of Ofqual, who instructed MPs in October that examination boards have been “investigating particular person circumstances of malpractice” at personal faculties in England over the 2021 outcomes.

A spokesperson for Ofqual mentioned: “Ofqual takes allegations of malpractice extraordinarily severely and we require examination boards to research such allegations and deal with any confirmed circumstances of qualifications-related malpractice in a college or school. It just isn’t acceptable for us to touch upon particular circumstances.”

A letter despatched to Ofqual from a whistleblower, seen by the Guardian, alleged that NLCS leaders have been keen to take advantage of loopholes within the evaluation steerage issued to colleges by the examination boards.

“After the federal government’s announcement that 2021’s A-levels and GCSEs [exams] could be cancelled, senior administration at NLCS have been overtly excited at the potential of acquiring ‘our greatest grades but’ and the attract of this concept propelled them to make choices that had little integrity, despite the fact that they seemed to be inside the foundations,” the whistleblower alleged.

In April this 12 months the college introduced NLCS’s headteacher, Sarah Clark, had resigned with quick impact, after 4 years within the put up.

Requested whether or not her departure was related to the 2021 assessments, a spokesperson for the college mentioned: “Having led the college by way of the many challenges posed by the Covid pandemic, in April 2022 Sarah determined that it was the precise time for her to step again and spend a while together with her household earlier than she takes on her subsequent problem.”

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