Labour wants to scrap predicted grades

Labour said last week that they back the PQA (post-qualification admission) system for higher education to enable students from less wealthy backgrounds to get into the top tier universities. It seems strange that predicted grades can actually end up being more important than your actual grades, but unfortunately, that is often the case. And if you’re a poorer student, this affects you most.

High-attaining students from working-class backgrounds are statistically more likely to have their grades underpredicted, and in my coursemates’ experience, this certainly rings true. In discussing our initial uni choices with my coursemates, I noticed almost all of those from self-professed working-class backgrounds had only one or two top-tier Russell Group choices and gave the rest to universities clearly beneath their capabilities.

Private schools push you to get higher grades

Meanwhile, my tutors at school strove to push me and encouraged a choices list boasting five Russell Group unis, no less. And with private school teachers so (perhaps TOO) willing to help, getting the predicted grades I needed was a doddle. For my two weaker subjects – Latin and History – I was predicted a grade lower than I wanted. Complaining to my friends, they suggested emailing and asking for the grades to be shifted up – they claimed it had worked for them. And so, à la Cher from Clueless, I asked for a raise and got it.

What about those who can’t just ask for a higher predicted grade?

In hindsight, this has become more and more disturbing to me. What about those for whom simply demanding better predicted grades isn’t an option? AKA, the vast majority of the country? It’s fair to say that with the current system, predicted grades are more important than your actual grades. What good is a set of incredible final grades if you didn’t even get an offer for your first choice uni? And with several unis such as York and Sheffield still accepting offer-holders who have missed the required grades, it’s possible that places are going to applicants from more privileged backgrounds. When in reality, their working-class counterparts may have outperformed them when it comes to final grades.

But with no offer – it’s too late. Of course, there’s the possibility of the Adjustment service, but why should poorer students have to stressfully scrabble for places when their richer counterparts have already got their foot in the door?

This is why Labour’s new policy – only applying to universities once final grades have been achieved – means a fairer, more equal application process for all.

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