On Wednesday 9 September, during the RSS 2020 Conference, RSS chief executive Stian Westlake chaired a short panel discussion on what is commonly termed the ‘A level exams fiasco’.
When physical exams taking place in 2020 were cancelled in the UK because of the Covid-19 pandemic, an algorithm was developed to set students’ exam grades. However, this algorithm had to be abandoned after significant inconsistencies were identified in the results. The issue prompted much discussion around the use of statistics in education as well as the use of algorithms in government more generally.
This discussion featured three expert RSS fellows who have been following the situation closely, having previously offered help and assistance to the government. The panel outlined the statistical issues with the algorithm used and how these problems might be avoided in future.
The speakers were:
Paula Williamson, Professor of Medical Statistics at the University of Liverpool
Guy Nason, Professor of Statistics at Imperial College London
Sharon Witherspoon, RSS VP for Education and Statistical Literacy and Director of Policy at the Campaign for Social Science.
Watch the session:
Read more about our statement on grade adjustment in UK exams.