PLANS to give out exam results this summer were plunged into doubt yesterday as the equalities watchdog warned they could be racist.
Over a million teens are set to get their A Levels and GCSEs based on predicted grades because of the Covid lockdown.
But the equalities watchdog said the system could be unfair to ethnic minority pupils because teachers can be guilty of “race bias” when predicting results.
Disabled kids, and those with special educational needs could also be unfairly treated, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said.
It is demanding exam bosses as Ofqual urgently tweak their plan to beef up a pupil’s right to appeal their grades to avoid discrimination.
The EHRC warned: “Research suggests there may be patterns of conscious or unconscious race bias when predicting grades.
“With this in mind, there is a danger that predicted grading may have an adverse impact on some disadvantaged groups.”
Bosses at exam board Ofqual have said students can appeal their grades if they think the wrong data was used to calculate them.
But they will not be able to appeal simply because they disagree with their teachers’ predicted grades.
The EHRC demanded urgent changes, including giving pupils the chance to appeal their grades if they think they have been discriminated against.
The watchdog also said the Department for Education should issue guidance to schools on how to dish out predicted grades “to minimise the risk of conscious or unconscious bias”.
And they want Ofqual to publish a report assessing how different types of students fared under the system in case discrimination is spotted.
David Isaac, chairman of the EHRC, said: “If we don’t get this right the future of some disadvantaged young people is severely at risk.
“We can’t let the crisis happening now affect the future of disadvantaged pupils when so many, particularly disabled pupils and those of ethnic minority background, already face an uphill battle.”
An Ofqual spokesman said: “We do recognise there are concerns about the potential for students to be disadvantaged by this approach and published an equality impact assessment, informed by a review of research literature on bias in teacher assessments, when our consultation was launched.”
He added: “Our standardisation model will be designed to ensure, so far as is possible, that students are not advantaged or disadvantaged on the basis of their socio-economic background or because they have a particular protected characteristic.
“Students who do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance will also have the opportunity to sit an exam in the autumn.”