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New A** grade could be introduced for top A-level students

Sources at Ofqual say a new A** grade is being considered (Picture: Getty Images)

The exams regulator may bring in a new top grade to differentiate between the best marks, it has been suggested.

Sources at Ofqual have told The Times a new A** grade is being considered, or switching to a numerical system like GCSEs.

It comes amid fears of grade inflation in the pandemic after almost half of A-level grades were an A or A* this year in an all-time high.

Teacher assessments were used instead of exams in both 2020 and 2021, when an algorithm moderating results was scrapped after controversy during the coronavirus crisis.

In a document seen by the newspaper, the exams regulator says its ‘starting assumption’ is that grades in 2022 will be lower than before the pandemic, so it is not looking to hold students to the same standards as those sitting exams pre-Covid.

Ofqual has put out to tender a contract for researchers to run focus groups on attitudes to grading distributions in 2022.

The document suggests replicating the boundaries of 2019, 2020 or 2021 to see what outcome this could have on overall marks.

It adds if greater discrimination at the higher end is needed for selective universities, ‘a new top grade could be introduced for A-level’.

Young multi-ethnic female students writing exam while sitting at desk in examination hall

There are fears of grade inflation following the pandemic (Picture: Getty Images)

But it recognises there may be problems with introducing this.

‘This could be confusing for teachers, students and parents as well as for higher education and others using the grades to select students,’ the document said.

‘A new grade is also likely to cause anxiety and uncertainty.’

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has previously mentioned a ‘glide path’ return back to pre-pandemic grade boundaries.

A recent report suggested a return to 2020 grade levels in 2022 would be ‘fairest’, but the Government seems to prefer a return to 2019 levels.

When GCSEs were moved from a letter-based system to a numerical one in 2017, it introduced grade 9 – which is higher than the old A* grade. This could be an option for A-levels.

Mr Williamson said he was ‘absolutely’ confident exams will return to normal by the end of the academic year, as the new school term started this week.

He told LBC radio yesterday: ‘We’ve had two years where we’ve not been able to run a normal series of exams. I don’t think anyone wants to see a third year of that.

‘We want to get back to normal, not just in terms of what the classroom experience is like but also the exam experience.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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