Why did the A-level algorithm say no?

Sean Coughlin:

Accusations of unfairness over this year’s A-level results in England have focused on an “algorithm” for deciding results of exams cancelled by the pandemic.

This makes it sound Machiavellian and complicated, when perhaps its problems are really being too simplistic.

There have been two key pieces of information used to produce estimated grades: how students have been ranked in ability and how well their school or college has performed in exams in recent years.

So the results were produced by combining the ranking of pupils with the share of grades expected in their school. There were other minor adjustments, but those were the shaping factors.

It meant that at a national level there would be continuity – with this year’s estimated results effectively mirroring the positions of recent years.