Following growing outrage from schools, students and teachers after the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) released its results for this year on Monday, the examinations regulator Ofqual is to “scrutinise” the organisation’s grading arrangements for 2020.
In the space of a few days since Monday’s release, nearly 10,000 people have signed a petition from Change.org demanding “justice” for this year’s students.
Meanwhile, at least one head teacher has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, identifying issues with the IB’s approach to grading this year, which differed from previous years due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students and teachers alike have been deeply unhappy about how the IB arrived at its final grades this year.
Different arrangements for grading this year’s students were in the offing from March, when the IBO announced that it would be cancelling plans for 2020’s examinations for its two-year Diploma and Career-oriented courses.
The organisation said that grades would instead by arrived at through coursework and teacher predictions, as well as historical data on student performance.
However, a much higher than usual proportion of students were dismayed by their results, having received grades that were widely at variance with their school’s predictions and their previous performance.
Several students reported that they had received a full 12 points less than there were predicted out of a total of 45.
After a storm of protest at the results, Ofqual has now asked for information from the IBO in order to determine whether or not its results are in accordance with the exam watchdog’s rules.
The education news outlet Tes contacted Ofqual yesterday evening enquiring about its response to the IB grading arrangements this year.
A spokesman for the regulator said: “We have requested information from IBO to scrutinise the awards it has made this summer and satisfy ourselves that results have been delivered in line with our extraordinary regulatory framework.”
This represents a significant development as yesterday afternoon, Ofqual had made no reference to any intention to investigate the organisation in an earlier response to a query from a Tes journalist.
Last month, the IBO reversed course in relation to its plans for its Middle Years Programme after announcing in April that it would not grade these subjects this year.
However, following an email ‘request’ from Ofqual, the organisation promptly changed direction and said that it would, after all, calculate grades for these subjects using a similar process to the one being used for GCSE students this year.
Ofqual appears to be stopping short of a full investigation at this point, stating that it was aware of media coverage of the IBO’s results this week.
It is advising schools, colleges and students that if they are concerned that an error has been made in calculating this year’s results, “they should follow IBO’s appeals process in the first instance”.
The exam regulator restated the arrangements for grading this year, under which each awarding body is responsible for issuing results in accordance with Ofqual’s COVID-19 regulatory framework.
An IB spokesperson said that its grading process this year had been rigorously tested by educational statistical experts and maintained that the organisation remained confident that 2020’s grades were awarded in the “fairest and most robust way possible”.