Presented by the Chief Executive of the Federation of @AwardingBodies, Tom Bewick, #SkillsWorldLIVE is a new radio show that builds on the popular #SkillsWorld podcast series, where Tom interviews leading figures shaping the post-compulsory education and skills systems, including apprenticeships in the UK, and across the world.

Episode 1: Is the calculated grades approach to summer examinations fair on students? - 23rd April 7-8pm (BST)

Guests include:

  • Dr Gill Wyness, Associate Professor in Economics of Education, and Deputy Director of the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) at University College London
  • Dr Fiona Summers, Head of Quality and Assessment at YMCA Awards
  • Dr Rebecca Conway, Head of Policy and Strategy at Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB)
  • Mardy Leathers, Director, Office of Workforce Development at State of Missouri
  • Lucy Dunleavy, CEO & Founder at LearnBox
  • Lucy Hunte, National Programme Manager – Apprenticeships at NHS Health Education England

Songs include: Walking a tightrope - Mindme with Mia Pfirrman, Tired of Waiting - Hallman, Celebration of Life - Tomas Skyldeberg, Help you let it go - Deanz feat. Andy Delos Santos, and Makes me feel - Alex Dovo

Predicting A-level grades accurately ‘near-impossible task’

Predicting A-level grades is a ‘near-impossible task’, and the system needs to be overhauled to reduce inaccuracies that can lead to unfair disadvantages for some students, says Aug 2020 research from the UCL Institute of Education.

Listen to Dr Gill Wyness discuss the findings of her research here:

For the working paper published on Tuesday 11 August 2020, academics from UCL Centre for Education Policy & Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) and Oxford Brookes Business School studied data from 238,898 pupils’ GCSE performance to see whether they could accurately predict their subsequent A-level results.

For the first time, they found that even by removing any opportunity for bias – and running additional checks on pupils’ gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status – they could only predict one in four pupils’ best three A-levels correctly.

The researchers say the disruption COVID-19 has brought on formal examinations this year – with pupils instead assigned calculated grades by their teachers, which are then moderated by exam boards – highlights a wider problem with the general UK system.

The paper also shows that high-achieving comprehensive school pupils are more likely to be under-predicted compared to their grammar and private school counterparts.

Among high achievers, where under-prediction is most common, the team found 23% of comprehensive school pupils were underpredicted by two or more grades compared to just 11% of grammar and private school pupils.

One of the paper’s authors, and CEPEO Director, Professor Lindsey Macmillan (UCL Institute of Education), said:

“This research raises the question of why we use predicted grades at such a crucial part of our education system.

“This isn’t teachers’ fault – it’s a near-impossible task. Most worryingly there are implications for equity, as pupils in comprehensives are harder to predict.

“Our work shows that these pupils have more noisy trajectories from GCSE to A-level. If you’re a straight-A student at a grammar or private school, you’re more likely to continue that to A-levels. But this research is telling us there’s a lot more movement around the grades between the two exam levels for comprehensive students.”

Teacher predictions of pupil grades are a fundamental feature of the English education system, forming the basis of students’ university applications and determining the wider life chances of pupils in post-secondary education.

Research by one of the authors, CEPEO Deputy Director Dr Gill Wyness (UCL Institute of Education), earlier this year showed that only 16% of university applicants were correctly predicted across their best three A-levels, when comparing teachers’ predictions to students’ actual grades. Of the rest, 75% were overpredicted and just 8% underpredicted.

The same study found that the grades of high-achieving students from low socio-economic backgrounds were more likely to be underpredicted.

For this working paper, the researchers used statistical and machine learning approaches to analyse detailed administrative data on prior achievement as well as demographic and school-level information.

They found their modelling only made modest improvements to the accuracy of teacher predictions, increasing the success rate from one in five to one in four pupils’ grades correctly predicted.

Predictions were improved by including data on ‘related’ GCSEs – those A-level subjects that have an equivalent GCSE – showing that exam subjects themselves need to be taken into account alongside student achievement and school type.

Maths was easier to predict among high achievers than other subjects such as history and chemistry, but for average and low achievers, the opposite was true.

English Literature was most accurately predicted across all achievement levels, while Law predictions were the least accurate.

For subjects without related GCSEs, the task was even more challenging, with lower prediction rates across the board.

The researchers say only moving towards a post-qualification applications and admissions (PQA) system would help remove potential inequalities.

Co-author Dr Wyness said: “We definitely don’t think teacher predictions should be replaced by computer predictions – this research serves to highlight the difficulty faced by teachers, and provides further evidence that the UK’s predicted grades system should be re-examined.”

The research was based on National Pupil Database records for a cohort of state and privately educated pupils who took their A-levels in 2008.

Don't miss Episode 2: Should the skills sector get its own bailout? - 24th Apil 7-8pm (BST)

We are looking for industry experts to get involved with the debate, and to offer their views, advice and recommendations to help support the education sector at this time of disruption and change.
If you are keen to get involved, or you know others that are, please let us know, and send your questions and comments to:
  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Call: 020 32 900 111
  • Twitter: #SkillsWorldLIVE @FENews

Please let us know if there is an important topic you would like to debate that we haven’t included yet!

Tune in to #SkillsWorldLIVE 7-8pm Thursdays during term time and subscribe here for notifications!

Apple Castbox Spotify FE Icon Google Podcast iHeart
Podcast Addict Podchaser Souncloud Deezer Spreaker YouTube


You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page