Grade inflation 'baked' into system like 'hard rock cake' says MP committee chair following record A -Level results

A “hard rock cake” of grade inflation has been “baked” into the education system, the chairman of a committee of MPs said yesterday, following a record number of top A-Level results.

Students at Ark Globe Academy in London, receive their A-Level results (PA/Ian West)

A and A* grades soared to their highest number ever, with results highlighting glaring regional disparities between London and the North, along with a stark difference in attainment between the state and private sector.

Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee called on the Prime Minister to “come up with a long term plan for education recovery”

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The MP for Harlow in Essex told The Yorkshire Post: “I give congratulations to every student who’s got their results today because it’s been an incredibly difficult year and I don’t want to demean their results in any way but I do worry that we’ve baked a hard rock cake of grade inflation into the system and that it’s going to take quite a long time to unbake.”

Across the UK almost 45 per cent (44.8 per cent) of entries were awarded an A or an A* this year following the second year of cancelled exams, up from 38.5 per cent last year.

Across Yorkshire and the Humber, 41.1 per cent of entries got top marks, but the highest rate of As and A*s in England could be found in London and the South East, where 47.9 per cent and 47.1 per cent of A Levels were given top marks respectively.

Private schools in England saw the largest absolute increase in the top grades compared with other types of schools and colleges – up 9.3 percentage points on last year, data from Ofqual suggests.

Mr Halfon added: “What the Prime Minister needs to do is come up with a long-term plan for education recovery and for reducing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their better off peers.”

The disparities in results across regions and between the private and state sectors has led one charity to warn that the pandemic has “compounded existing inequalities” which has been reflected in the results.

Founder of The Sutton Trust Sir Peter Lampl said: “We’re seeing growing gaps between independent and state schools at the top grades. This poses an immediate challenge for university admissions.

“While it’s encouraging to see more students from less affluent areas going to university this year, it’s of real concern that the gap between those from less affluent areas and those from well-off areas has grown. Given that disrupted learning has affected lower income youngsters more, we urge universities to give additional consideration to disadvantaged students.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson paid testament “to young people’s hard work and resilience” as well as their teachers, following eighteen months of disrupted education as a result of the pandemic.

The Scarborough-born MP added: “It’s fantastic to see a record number of disadvantaged students going to university. While there has been an increase in the number of top grades awarded, young people and their families can be confident grades carry the same weight as any other year and will allow them to progress to the next stage of education or work.”