Adult Learners and the Examination Board Debacle Adult Education

Update: On August 17th, the UK and Welsh Education Ministers, along with their Scottish counterpart, reversed their commitment to an algorithmic approach to exam scores and settled for teacher-based assessments. All three ministers have also apologized. Details can be found at:

This summer’s exam results sparked unusual outrage and outrage across the UK. It all started in Scotland, where the Minister of Education responded to public anger by abandoning a strategy he had originally approved. A week later followed An outcry when the results were announced elsewhere in the UKHowever, a common theme was that in each system, the preferred solutions to problems caused by the pandemic tended to discriminate against the least privileged children.

Understandably, the media – social and “traditional” – had a great day. In the middle of the series, I tweeted a mild reminder that both adults and school leavers were affected: some second chance returnees take GCSEs and / or high school diplomas either to measure themselves against capable teens or, probably more importantly, as a means to Build a portfolio of skills that are widely recognized and can enable progress.

My message triggered a number of responses and this post summarizes the main points that people have raised. Some people tweeted that any inherent tendency in the system this summer would likely hit adult returnees more than teenagers. One found that adults who typically complete a GCSE within 9 months had less time to resort to full mock exams. Another said the lack of prior education in adult learners may have caused problems with moderating their grades. Finally, David Hughes commented that Ofqual’s algorithms struggle to cope with adults due to the lack of comparable data on past performance

One person pointed out that the number of adults who have graduated from high school has decreased significantly. In particular, a small number of adults now have a GCE-A level with 1780 entries (no learners) for more than 19 learners in NARTs 2018/19 (many of which will be under the age of 21) and only 340 advanced loans that were approved for A-Levels in 2018/19.

Once the dust has settled and the inevitable requests have been put into practice, it is important to ensure that the unique needs and experiences of adult returnees are not overlooked. I hope that this brief summary of the first responses will help keep adult learners involved in the conversation – and possibly in the longer term ensure that these qualifications become more accessible in our lifelong learning system.

Thanks to everyone who commented. You can follow them on Twitter at:


@ BobHarrisonEdu



@ Littlemissmath5

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