Lambeth students
Lambeth students

Lambeth’s black children must not miss out on higher grades just because the government has cancelled GCSE and A-level exams, the council’s education lead has said.

Instead of the normal summer exams, pupils will be graded according to the views of their school on how well they would have done.

In a letter to the Government, Councillor Ed Davie, Lambeth Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said that studies had shown black children, in particular, suffer from being under-graded when people are asked to estimate what their exam marks will be.

Writing to education secretary Gavin Williamson, Cllr Davie said: ‘As you will be aware Lambeth is proud to be home to one of the largest Black African and Caribbean populations in the UK.

‘Our Black Caribbean residents, in particular, are already subject to disproportionate levels of poverty, lower academic achievement and worse health due to long-standing racism and deprivation.

‘We in Lambeth have been working hard to improve this situation and obviously we do not want measures imposed due to Coronavirus to inadvertently set this progress back.

‘Various academic studies have shown that black and other ethnic minority children are at risk of unfairly low expectations and of being under-graded when estimates of academic performance are called for. As imperfect as our examination system is it does at least give a relatively objective means for pupils to prove people’s expectations wrong.’

Cllr Davie has also requested that Lambeth Council education officers respond to the Ofqual exam regulator’s consultation on the process to call for measures to be put in place to counter any potential bias.

Ofqual’s guidance for this process does mention potential biases against students with certain characteristics but does not set out hoe these potential biases will be accounted for and corrected.

Cllr Davie also wrote about how the Council had worked with schools to close the gap between pupils and called for more investment to continue this work: ‘In Lambeth we have recognised a historic attainment gap between our students with Black Caribbean heritage and their peers as well as the disproportionate number effected by exclusions. Lambeth Council has worked with 34 local schools to fund and deliver the “Raising the Game – Black Caribbean Achievement Project” by embedding a range of interventions to close the historic attainment gap and raise pupil aspirations.

‘After a year, this two-year project is showing encouraging provisional figures that provide confidence in our approach. There are early indications that permanent exclusions for Lambeth resident Black Caribbean pupils has dropped by 49% in the 2018-19 academic year. Alongside this, results at Key Stage 2 have improved by 11% with GCSE results improving since last year by 3.7%. This demonstrates why it is important that trajectory of schools and pupil cohorts are given consideration in any grading model adopted.’

Teachers in the Raising the Game participating schools in Lambeth have found unconscious bias training helpful in providing them the tools to adjust ingrained forms of thinking and address potentially discriminatory behaviour towards Black, Asian and minority ethnic pupils.

Lambeth want the adoption and roll-out of unconscious bias training to address the danger of bias affecting pupils’ grades among other measures.

‘The coronavirus outbreak has seen people from ethnic minorities dying disproportionally from the virus, likely due to a toxic mix of racism and deprivation leading to health inequalities. We are also seeing inequalities playing a role in some children’s access to technology and access to space both inside and outside of the home. Success in education and training plays an important role and route out of poverty and disadvantage for young people and government, both national and local, must do all it can to support our young people and ensure that all students are fairly rewarded for their hard work,’ Cllr Davie said.

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