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How should we assess school students now that exams have been cancelled?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital8 January 2021

Jake Anders, Lindsey Macmillan, Gill Wyness, Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities

This article was originally published by Economics Observatory

To avoid a repeat of last summer’s exam chaos, the government must decide quickly on alternative assessment measures. There is a strong case for A-level students to receive in-class testing – with flexible timing and content – to take account of differences in their learning experiences.

While the uncertainties of a global pandemic make this one of the most volatile periods of education policy in history, if there is one lesson we should all have learned since last March, it is that indecision is costly. This has proved true repeatedly for public health and looks just as relevant for education.

As we saw with last summer’s exam fiasco, the failure to act decisively led to there being little alternative but to (more…)

Covid-19 and education: Why have we waited until now to improve the accuracy of predicted grades?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 April 2020

Gill Wyness

For students expecting to take their A-Levels and BTECs this summer, the impact of COVID-19 will be profound. Instead of taking the formal examinations that they were preparing for, Ofqual confirmed today that school leavers will be provided with a set of grades based on teacher judgement, which will, in turn, form the basis of their university applications. This plan has attracted a fair amount of criticism, with fears that the system may be biased, and might lead to certain groups of students missing out on a university place because of a bad prediction.

But it is worth noting that this is already how students apply to university, so it is perhaps surprising that there is suddenly such widespread resistance to the idea of predicted grades. However, my recent study with Richard Murphy (University of Texas at Austin) suggests that fears that these predicted grades might be inaccurate may be well-grounded.

The UK’s system of university applications has the peculiar feature that students apply to university on the basis of predicted rather than actual exam grades. In fact, only (more…)

How can we help more deprived students to choose courses that will lead to higher earnings?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 February 2020

The IOE’s new Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) launches its website today, along with a new blog. Here, Gill Wyness. the centre’s deputy director, shares its first post

Getting more students into higher education (HE) is an important element of governments’ strategies for increasing human capital. Consequently, much academic research has been devoted to examining policies that aim to encourage students into university, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  

But less attention has been given to the types of universities students enrol in. Given the high returns for those who attend selective universities and subjects, understanding whether students from disadvantaged backgrounds enrol in less selective courses, which are likely to have lower returns, is important for equalising opportunities.

In a recent research project, colleagues Lindsey Macmillan and Stuart Campbell of UCL Institute of Education and Richard Murphy (University of Texas at Austin) and I examine this question, asking to what extent students are mismatched to their courses, and what are the drivers of mismatch.

(more…)