Changes to college high grade tables a ‘mystery’

Unexplained changes to college data tables on what classifies as a ‘high grade’ have baffled colleges, who have seen their high grades drop “dramatically”.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) brought the problem to the attention of their members in a briefing leaked to FE Week.

The briefing said that “changes seem to have been made to the definitions of high grades in learner responsive performance reports” managed by the information authority and that the impact on colleges was “significant”, in some cases “halving” their high grade profile.

Joy Mercer, the AoC’s director of policy, said: “It is a mystery to us as to who changed the definition of high grades in college data tables. The AoC has asked the information authority to investigate.”

The organisation believes that high grades for GCSEs are now defined as A* to B rather than A* to C. National Diploma Level 3 qualifications (including the Sub Diploma and Extended Diploma) “now seem to need at least one distinction” in their grade to count as a high grade. “Three merits used to count as high grades but don’t seem to anymore,” the briefing added.

Ms Mercer added: “Colleges are always trying to improve the amounts of students who achieve high grades and this feeds into their own data analysis and improvement agenda. Colleges were confused as to why their high grades had dropped dramatically and also whether this would affect Ofsted inspections and performance tables. We have been reassured by both that they will not be using any new definition as it had not been agreed.

“It is also unclear which authorities and departments will be using this new definition and which will not. This could lead to a confusing time in colleges as they try to aggregate their own information and cross reference it with centralised data sets.”