Top private school ‘exaggerates’ predicted grades so more pupils will get into uni

Teachers were told increase the predicted grades of some lower performing students

Top UK private school, Sevenoaks, has a policy of asking teacher’s to exaggerate exam predictions, leaked documents have revealed.

These predictions are made for the lower performing students on their university applications, to help them secure their offers, report the Guardian.

Guidelines set out in the minutes of internal meetings and the 2019-20 teachers’ handbook show that for about 20 lower-performing students, who may be at risk of missing out on their preferred degree course, staff are asked to increase their predicted grades on their UCAS applications.

Sevenoaks, one of the most prestigious private schools in the UK reportedly charge more than £38,000 a year for boarding pupils and prides itself on its students’ “tremendous record of achievement” in winning university places.

Instead of A-levels, the school uses the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams. Leaked documents say that such changes in predictions for these exams will be “usually accommodated”.

With exams cancelled this year because of coronavirus, many exam bodies will be using predicted grades submitted to them as part of their calculations for final results this year.

The use of predicted grades has been shown to disadvantage BME and state schooled students, who are more likely to be predicted grades lower than what they actually achieve, research shows.

In total, Sevenoaks’ higher education department seeks to increase about one in 12 pupils’ predicted grades each year, the documents say. The policy is said to have been in place for “many years”.

Of those receiving single-grade increases, the school’s policy adds: “[T]his is only to support the application and it is not assumed that the student will achieve this grade.”

UCAS guidance on predicted grades clearly says that predicted grades should not be influenced by university or college entry requirements – “predicted grades should be set in isolation of an applicant’s university or college choice(s)”.

Tom Richmond, director of EDSK education thinktank told the Guardian that practices in place like over-predicting grades could “open doors” for pupils who may otherwise never be considered for a place at their preferred university.

The school denied any suggestion that it would unfairly exaggerate UCAS predictions, telling the Guardian that all predicted grades were “based on what is realistic and achievable for pupils” in line with Ucas guidelines. It said that the number of students meeting or exceeding their predictions “significantly outperforms the national average”.

A Sevenoaks spokesperson told the Guardian: “We are confident in the integrity of our processes and refute any suggestion that we would unfairly exaggerate UCAS predictions. All UCAS predicted grades are based on what is realistic and achievable for the pupils, in line with UCAS’s guidelines which make clear that predicted grades should be ‘aspirational but achievable’. A significant majority of Sevenoaks students meet or exceed their UCAS predicted grades and, in this respect, we significantly outperform the national average.”

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