How Covid Lockdowns Affected School Grades

Health & Education

All of our day-to-day lives have been turned upside down over the past three years due to Covid-19. These changes to our ‘new normal’ have been temporary for most of us. However, for students, the cancellation of exams has led to academic success being determined by teacher merit. 

New analysis has found that ‘private schools gave out more generous GCSE grades during the pandemic than state grammar schools.’ The analysis found pupils who went to private schools received higher GCSE grades than expected when compared to the previous year’s results. 

With the ongoing surge in university competition, it is important to analyse these grades to ensure the less wealthy students gain a place in their chosen courses. As this does not only impact their immediate future but also their possible future experiences once outside of education. 

University competition is at an all-time high with Professor Lee Elliot Major expressing a fear that students ‘may lose out in this new highly competitive era not just this year but over the next decade.’ Last year’s results reflected that the most disadvantaged pupils (those on free school meals) dropped further behind than more privileged peers.

Students from grammar schools and private education usually have comparable educational progress journeys from primary to secondary. 

The analyst Natasha Plaister has said “pupils in independent schools exceeded their estimated grades by more than they did before the pandemic, while those in selective state schools exceeded them by less than pre-pandemic in English, and roughly the same in maths. This analysis does seem to suggest that during the pandemic, under both centre-assessed grades (CAGs) and teacher-assessed grades (TAGs), independent schools gave out more generous grades than might be expected.” Private school pupils’ grades were almost 0.7 grades higher than expected and grammar school students were 0.3 grades higher than anticipated. 

This could be due to private school teaching being less disrupted over the pandemic. However, there is also a lack of data for students who weren’t state-educated during their primary years, as they weren’t obliged to take the key stage 2 sats tests which are where the data is collated from. Furthermore, many private schools sit IGCSEs which also cant be marked against comparably. 

Now that students are back in exam halls the grade gap should begin to close between the grammar and private education sectors perhaps reducing the battle for university places. The department of education spokesperson has described the government to be “working closely with the higher education sector to ensure students are able to progress to high-quality courses that lead to good outcomes.”

I think these two school years will be globally accepted to be an enigma, with the hope that the less advantaged children have a chance to mould their own way through their professional journeys, no matter the outcome of the exam grades that they have received. 

During last year’s GCSE results, the most disadvantaged pupils – those on free school meals – dropped further behind privileged peers.

Private school students saw the greatest jump in top grades during these results, far outstripping state schools with around 60 per cent of exams getting top marks compared to 26 per cent.

By Ella Bertrand on 06/07/2022