Replacement A-level grades 'no lower than mock exams'

By on August 12, 2020

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A-level and GCSE students in England are being promised their final results will be no lower than their mock exams.

The Department for Education announced a “triple lock” – which could boost the replacement grades for exams cancelled in the pandemic.

It means pupils getting A-level results this week can accept that estimated grade, or change it for a mark gained in a mock exam.

Or they can instead choose to take a written exam in the autumn.

The same system, which is also being used in Northern Ireland, will apply on BTEC results this week and on GCSE results a week later.

Head teachers attacked the last-minute change as “panicked and chaotic”.

It comes after 125,000 pupils in Scotland had their results reversed after being downgraded by a system which critics claimed was a “postcode lottery” as it took in their schools’ past performances.

It drew accusations that high-achieving pupils in low-performing schools would lose out – and that this would particularly discriminate against young people in deprived areas.

The government has apologised and results will now be based on teachers’ predicted grades without the moderating process that could lower these results.

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Protests have changed exam grades in Scotland – now students want the same for the rest of the UK

England’s schools minister Nick Gibb told BBC Breakfast being able to appeal on the basis of their mock results was “an extra safety net for a small group of pupils”.

He said Ofqual – the examinations regulator – would set out what what conditions exams would have to have been conducted under to be eligible to for their results to be used in an appeal, but admitted there would not be standardisation.

If results are lower than students’ grades in mock exams an appeal can be made to the exam board.

Mr Gibb told BBC Breakfast there was not confusion in the system and said he would “apologise to nobody for finding solutions – even at the eleventh hour” to stop students being disadvantaged.

But head teachers’ leader Geoff Barton was highly critical of this late change – and said the marking of mock exams was not consistent enough between schools to be used to decide A-level results.

“The idea of introducing at the eleventh hour a system in which mock exam results trump calculated grades beggars belief,” said the leader of the ASCL heads teachers’ union.

“The government doesn’t appear to understand how mock exams work. They aren’t a set of exams which all conform to the same standards. The clue is in the name ‘mock’,” said Mr Barton.

For A-level students in England getting their results on Thursday, mock exams marked by teachers before the lockdown will now become an important part of deciding their final results.

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A-level results are going to be estimated this year after exams were cancelled

Meanwhile, the Welsh government has tried to reassure A-level students that Wales’ modelling is “fair”, with nearly half of pupils’ final mark based on AS-levels completed last year.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “They have got AS-levels where results are conducted in a much more robust way so there is a bit more hard data available in Wales which we don’t have in England.”

Never on the eve of results for students have the goalposts moved so rapidly as in this shift – which could allow some mock results to be accepted instead of the grade calculated after a lengthy process.

Students would have to go through an appeal.

Geoff Barton of the head teachers’ union said it beggared belief that changes were being made now.

I understand that universities have not been consulted either. Many of their admissions decisions will have been made since they received A-level grades last Friday to prepare for clearing.

Northern Ireland has also said it would now accept mock exams as a basis for appeals.

Labour says there needs to be more transparency about how grades have been calculated.

The party says GCSE pupils in England should have a guarantee they won’t face compulsory re-sits in maths or English if they fall below grade 4.

But the link with previous school results remains an important part of how A-level grades will be decided in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

England’s exam regulator Ofqual warned that relying on teachers’ predictions would unfairly inflate results.

Using teachers’ predictions would have meant about 38% of entries would have been A* or A grades this year – considerably higher than the previous record of 27%.

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Labour says the approach to this year’s exams risks “robbing a generation of young people of their future”

“Every young person waiting for their results wants to know they have been treated fairly,” said Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

“By ensuring students have the safety net of their mock results, as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams, we are creating a triple lock process to ensure they can have the confidence to take the next step forward in work or education”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned that the approach to this year’s exams risks “robbing a generation of young people of their future”.

Ms Green told BBC Breakfast she thought that no sGCSE students should not be downgraded below a level 4 – the equivalent of the old grade C – in English and maths.

“Those subjects are so crucial for a student’s future path, whether into their chosen career or further study,” she said. “And given the disruption that they have suffered this year to their education we do think it’s particularly important that we protect this Covid generation from further damage.”

Mary Bousted of the National Education Union warned the changes in Scotland meant students in different parts of the UK were applying for the same university places with results based on “completely different criteria and wildly different pass rates”.

But it is expected to be a good year for students looking for university places – with an anticipated fall in overseas students leaving many places to be filled.

Even if pupils miss their required grades places will still be available, suggested Clare Marchant of the Ucas admissions service.

“Those near-miss candidates, if they’ve dropped one or two grades, universities are being super-flexible about that,” said Ms Marchant.

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