A-levels go gender neutral: Leading exam board allows students to opt out of boys and girls classifications

Posted on: 2018-08-14 20:30:00

For the first time this summer, teenagers who do not identify with either gender are able to request that male and female flags are removed from EdExcel’s system.

EdExcel, which is owned by the education company Pearson, has also axed gender categories completely from the documents that students receive on results day with their grades.

Compiling information about students’ gender enables exam boards to examine trends in results over time, such as whether boys or girls are dominating the top gradeshow many girls are taking STEM subjects compared to boys.

However, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents the UK’s major exam boards, said that the introduction of a gender neutral option would not affect national trends since numbers would be too low to have an impact.

EdExcel is the first major exam board to have made changes to accommodate non-binary pupils, but others intend to follow suit.

OCR and AQA are both examining their systems to see whether similar changes can be made, The Daily Telegraph understands.

A spokesperson for Pearson said:  "We are continuing to look at how non-binary students can have the option of signalling that they do not wish to be classed as either male or female when they register for a qualification and receive results with Pearson Edexcel.

“For this summer we have removed the gender flag altogether from the documents students receive from us, and we are giving them the option of removing the male/female flag on our qualifications systems by requesting this through their school or college."

Pearson said it is working on a number of initiatives with the charity Stonewall aimed at boosting “diversity and inclusion”.  

Earlier this year, Pearson announced that its school textbooks will be updated to include "same sex" couples in their questions. It said it will update all of its products and resources to ensure they are "LGBT inclusive".

Exam boards already have a process in place for transgender student who transition after sitting their exams, and want to change the information on their certificate to reflect their new identity. 

A JCQ spokesperson said: “Schools and colleges enter students for examinations and designate a gender for their candidates. Where a candidate has no designated gender JCQ does not enter their results for national reporting.  

“The number of candidates is small and does not have a material impact on the aggregated results.  Awarding bodies continue to work towards supporting non-binary candidates.”

Last year, boys beat girls to top A-level grades for the first time in 17 years, with the dramatic reversal of fortunes thought to be fuelled by the new "tougher" A-levels.

"It's great to see organisations like Pearson taking steps to be more inclusive of all gender identities" - Sidonie Bertrand Shelton, head of education programmes at Stonewall

In the subjects that have a reformed syllabus and course structure, the top grades of girls have drastically declined in percentage points compared to last year.

This year, boys are expected to score more A and A* grades than girls in the new A-levels, according to a Buckingham University report.

It predicts that boys' performance will improve this year in England because there are twice as many new tough A-levels, which are tested by exams, rather than coursework.

Sidonie Bertrand Shelton, head of education programmes at Stonewall, said: "It’s great to see organisations like Pearson taking steps to be more inclusive of all gender identities.

"By offering non-binary students a voluntary way to express their identity schools will get a better understanding of who makes up their student body.

"Having more inclusive data will help schools create more welcoming environments and ensure every student is accepted without exception.’

Source: The Telegraph

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