It will surely raise the hackles of many Conservatives. The Assessment and Qualification Alliance, an exam board, has suggested that A level students should be given extra points if they come from under-performing state schools, or from poor families. This sort of practice has obviously been going on a while at universities, who lower the bar for candidates with fewer educational
privileges, but this is an attempt to do the same for school exams. The motive is obviously that A level results should better reflect the innate ability of students rather than the quality of the teaching they have been lucky enough to get. That might be a noble aim, but as the schools minister Nick Gibb has now pointed out, it raises all sorts of concens that could undermine the integrity of A levels. They would no longer be a gold standard, objective test of pure educational achievement, but something far wider which might not be as useful for universities and employers. If universities are already making compensation for candidates' educational background, you would need to make sure that some candidates aren't given double credit both by the A level exam board, and the university. Independent schools have already protested that the proposal discriminates against them; the master of Magdalen College, Oxford pointed out the unfairness of marking down a poor pupil who receives a bursary to an independent school while marking up a student who goes to a "leafy comprehensive". The underlying concern here is the effect it has on incentives. The more you reward people for having had poor education, the less incentive there is to raise educational standards – either by helping deprived kids go to the best schools, or by putting pressure on schools to raise standards. Concern has been expressed that ultimately it would lead to a system where people don't pour their energies into getting properly educated, but into showing how poorly educated they have been. There is cross-party concern that such perverse incentives already bedevil the welfare system, such as sickness benefit encouraging people to prove they are sick rather than get well to work. Remind me, what was the road to hell paved with? As Nick Gibb said, the focus of government has to be on raising educational standards for all.