One in five teachers in richer areas face grades pressure from pushy parents

Nearly one in five teachers at schools in wealthier areas have come under pressure from pushy parents over exam grades this year.

A new survey found 17% of teachers at state schools in affluent areas had been approached by parents about their child’s grades, rising to one in four (23%) at private schools.

Only one in 10 (11%) state school teachers in poorer areas said they had come under pressure over results, according the report by the Sutton Trust, which campaigns to improve social mobility.

Schools are bracing for a wave of appeals this summer as pupils will get GCSE and A-Level results based on assessments by their teachers.

Formal exams were cancelled again this year due to the pandemic.

Schools have faced significant disruption during the pandemic
Schools have faced significant disruption during the pandemic

The findings come after a union boss revealed some teachers had faced threats of legal action from parents if their children fail to get the right grades.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told MPs earlier this month that his members had already received threats from parents that they have “a lawyer lined up”.

The report uncovered stark variation in the number of mini exams being taken by A-Level students, with almost two in five (38%) teachers saying pupils were doing three to four “mini-exams” or in-class assessments per subject.

But the poll of more than 3,000 teachers in England suggests that 18% reported two or fewer and 18% reported more than six.

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A separate survey of more than 400 university applicants found nearly half (47%) believe the pandemic will negatively impact their chance of getting into their first-choice university – and particularly those applying to the more traditionally selective Russell Group institutions (56%).

Some 53% were worried about being ready to start university this autumn, and around a third (34%) feel unprepared.

Those from a state school (36%) are more than twice as likely to feel unprepared for starting university compared to their privately educated peers (17%).

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “This year’s cohort of university applicants have faced almost two years of disrupted education. As we approach results day, it’s vital that poorer students are not disadvantaged by the greater impact of the pandemic on them.

“Universities should give additional consideration to disadvantaged students who have just missed out on their offer grades.”

The charity called on universities to give additional consideration to applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds who have narrowly missed their offer grades.

It also urged ministers to extend pupil premium funding, which is targeted at poorer pupils, to students in post-16 education from next year, and they should receive increased “catch up” funding.

ASCL chief Geoff Barton said: “Many teachers have had the additional strain of coping with pressure from parents.

“We know these parents think they are doing the best for their children. But it is yet another issue which has added to the stress of an extremely stressful period.

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“And grades are of course based on evidence of student performance rather than whose parents have the sharpest elbows.”

Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said: “Come results day every pupil must be supported to progress with their education, training or employment, not just the most privileged.

“The Conservatives have treated children and young people as an afterthought throughout this pandemic.

“Ministers must now urgently set out the support that will be available to pupils, parents and teachers on results day to ensure no young person loses out on future opportunities due to their failed pandemic response.”

Dr Michelle Meadows, deputy chief regulator at England’s exams regulator Ofqual, said: “Although exams didn’t take place, students will receive grades so they can move on with their lives.

“Those parents who tried to influence teachers’ judgments behaved wrongly.

“Exam boards provided guidance to schools and colleges on recording and reporting any such activity.

“This was important as it was essential that teachers’ already difficult task was not made more difficult by having to deal with these unacceptable pressures.”

A Department for Education (DfE) spokeswoman said: “There is no one better placed to judge young people’s abilities than their teachers, which is why, in the absence of formal exams, teachers are determining students’ grades this year and supporting them to progress to their next stage.

“No teacher should be put under undue pressure and grades are subject to wider internal checks in schools and external checks by exam boards to make sure they are a fair reflection of students’ work.”

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