When exams were cancelled – what difference did this make to outcomes for ethnic minority GCSE students?

Teachers predicted higher grades for ethnic minority students in GCSE maths, but lower grades in GCSE English, according to a new ESRC-funded study published today.

The new research looked at changing performance rates for young people taking their GCSEs during the periods of pandemic disruption and whether Teacher Assessed Grades – which replaced traditional exams – garnered different results to normal exam-earnt grades.

The study by Hettie Burn with Dr Laura Fumagalli and Professor Birgitta Rabe examined data from schools across England and Wales to unpick the patterns of how different types of students performed academically over the corresponding years leading up to the pandemic.

They explored whether teachers have different predictions for the examination performance of ethnic minority students relative to White British students.

Using the change in assessment methods, they were able to compare grades based on teacher predictions to grades received through actual blindly marked examinations.

They found that – relative to White British students – teachers appear to have higher predictions for ethnic minority students’ examination performance in maths and lower predictions for ethnic minority students’ examination performance in English.

These effects do not disappear when observable differences between groups and cohorts are accounted for, with differential teacher predictions of examination performance across ethnic groups remaining a convincing explanation of the results.

Read the paper here For more on our ESRC-funded project Mind The Gap, which looked at how children’s schooling and educational inequalities were impacted by the COVID-19 school closures, see our webpages here.


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