A top North London private school has denied it has been found to have committed malpractice over the awarding of exam grades in 2021, when all A-level pupils were given either an A or an A*.
North London Collegiate School (NLCS) responded to claims in The Guardian that it had faced several investigations over grades awarded by teachers when externally assessed exams were suspended because of the Covid pandemic.
More than 20 cases involving senior teachers and leaders were reported to malpractice committees, according to The Guardian.
The newspaper reported that some of the cases relating to the school, which charges £22,000 a year, had been dismissed, but others upheld by the malpractice committees of the A-level examination boards following confidential hearings this month.
In a statement NLCS said: “We note the article today in The Guardian regarding investigations into 2021 assessed grades.
“The process and findings of any such investigations are confidential between the exam board and the parties. However, we can confirm that the investigation has concluded and that there has been no finding of centre [i.e. school] malpractice by NLCS.”
In October, Ofqual, the exam regulator, said it was investigating some individual cases of malpractice at private schools during the 2021 exam season.
A spokesman for Ofqual told The Guardian: “Ofqual takes allegations of malpractice extremely seriously and we require exam boards to investigate such allegations and address any proven cases of qualifications-related malpractice in a school or college. It is not appropriate for us to comment on specific cases.”
A spokesman for Pearson, the exam board involved in the investigations, said: “We take allegations of malpractice very seriously and investigate all those put to us. Where malpractice is found, we have systems in place to ensure, as far as possible, that appropriate sanctions are taken according to the evidence. We cannot comment on individual cases.”
A disparity in the awarding of top grades during the pandemic has given rise to concerns that pupils at private schools have unfairly benefited compared to state school students.
In 2019, there was a 24 percentage point gap between private schools and state schools achieving A* and A grades at A level, which rose to 31 percentage points in 2021, according to Ofqual figures.
NLCS was found to have the biggest jump in the proportion of A* grades awarded in 2021, when exams were assessed by teachers, compared to 2019, in a Sunday Times investigation earlier this year. It found that the proportion of A* grades at the school jumped from 33.8 per cent in 2019 to 90.2 per cent in 2021.
That compared to an increase of just 0.1 per cent at secondary comprehensives, and a drop from 0.3 per cent to 0.2 per cent at secondary moderns.