upReach is launching an ambitious new campaign to encourage all employers to follow the lead of universities and embrace the use of contextual data, with the innovative new REAL tool. Employers taking advantage of the new contextualised A-Level grades, known as REALratings, can identify hidden talent they may otherwise miss.
For decades, universities have used contextual data to give lower A-Level grade offers to high potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This trend has accelerated in recent years, with Bristol University this year giving disadvantaged applicants offers that were two grades lower (1). This practice has become less controversial, as evidence has shown that state school students tend to do better in their degree studies than students from independent schools with the same prior educational attainment (2).
Yet when employers hire graduates or school leavers, the vast majority fail to incorporate contextual data into their decision making process, creating a bias against many high potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
John Craven, Chief Executive of upReach, commented “The failure to embrace contextual data means that employers are missing out on high potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It helps explain why those from less-advantaged backgrounds continue to be greatly under-represented on prestigious graduate schemes. Through the launch of a sophisticated free tool, REAL, upReach aim to make use of contextual data standard practice for graduate recruiters, giving a much needed boost to social mobility.”
Over 1 in 4 top graduate employers still insist on applicants having minimum A-Level grades (3). Those that don’t, typically still use A-Level grades as part of the assessment process, with few making effective use of contextual data. This is despite A-level results being:
– at least 3 years out-of-date by the time a student begins work.
– an imperfect indicator of degree performance, that biases in favour of those at private schools, who generally underperform once at university (4).
– not closely correlated to workplace performance, as noted by employers such as EY and Grant Thornton (5).
REAL (Relative Educational Attainment Level), built by upReach, is the most comprehensive contextual data tool available. A student’s REALrating is a research and evidence-backed estimate of how a candidate could have performed in their A-Levels had they not suffered from educational and economic disadvantage.
Candidates provide contextual information including their family background, their postcode, their grades and their school history. The REAL model uses the contextual circumstances of that candidate to calculate a ‘REALrating’ equal to the A-Level grades that the evidence implies they had the potential to achieve.
The multi-factor model assesses academic potential by adjusting A-Level grades according to school type (independent or state school), school performance (including GCSE and A-Level attainment and value added), home postcode data (drawing on IMD, IDACI and POLAR3 data) as well as other indicators of disadvantage associated with unrealised academic potential at school.
Through the launch of REAL, upReach aim to boost students confidence, encouraging them to understand their true academic potential. Students can complete an online survey in 2 minutes, generating their own REALrating, which demonstrates their academic potential.
As a charity focused on boosting social mobility, upReach believe all employers should have easy access to contextual data, and are making the tool available for free. Ultimately, upReach aim to make the use of contextual data standard practice in the graduate recruitment market.
From Monday, candidates can find out their REALrating at REALrating.co.uk. Employers can find out how to get FREE use of the tool by emailing REALrating@upreach.org.uk.
(1) https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/dec/15/bristol-university-lower-entry-grades-disadvantaged-students and http://www.bristol.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/entry-requirements-qualifications/contextual-offers/).
(2) HEFCE (2014), http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2014/201403/#d.en.86821)
(3) According to upReach research, 26 out of the Times Top 100 Employers have minimum A-Level requirements.
(4) HEFCE (2014), http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/year/2014/201403/#d.en.86821)
(5) Our own internal research of over 400 graduates found that screening students based on academic performance alone was too blunt an approach to recruitment. It found no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken;