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A-level and GCSE students could receive results in July amid cancelled exams


By PA News

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(PA)

Students could receive their A-level and GCSE results by the start of July under proposals unveiled by England’s exams regulator.

Ofqual and the Department for Education (DfE) have launched a two-week consultation on the options for exam alternatives in England after this summer’s A-level, AS and GCSE exams were cancelled.

The watchdog is considering how students will be awarded fair grades amid the disruption, and it is proposing that students continue with their education during this academic year despite cancelled exams and school closures.

Students would be assessed by their teachers during a period from May into early June and school staff would submit their grades to the exam boards by mid-June under the regulator’s plans.

Normally students receive their results in mid to late August, but the regulator has suggested moving this forward to early July, once exam boards have completed their quality assurance checks.

The consultation will seek views on results being issued to students earlier than usual to allow enough time for appeals to be processed ahead of the start of the new term, the DfE has said.

Allowing all students to appeal over their grades is one of the proposals being considered by Ofqual, but they will be asked to take up the issue with their school or college first.

The watchdog is proposing that a student’s grade “will be based on their teachers’ assessment of the standard at which the student is performing”.

The proposals come after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested that students could be asked to sit externally-set papers or tasks to help teachers with their assessments.

On Wednesday, Mr Williamson said teachers should make a judgment on a student’s grade “as late as possible” to maximise teaching time and ensure students remain motivated.

Under the plans, teachers would award grades using a range of evidence – which could include coursework, other forms of assessment, papers set externally or papers devised by teachers.

Exam boards should make papers available to schools – with questions similar in style and format to those in normal exam papers – which teachers would mark to inform their assessments, it says.

Ofqual said it is proposing that exam boards should make a set of papers available– which teachers can use with students as part of their assessment.

The consultation seeks views on what form papers should take, when they should be made available, and whether their use should be mandated.

Papers used in the final assessment could be completed in a student’s home “if the pandemic makes it essential”, it says, but Ofqual is hopeful that students’ performance will be able to be assessed within schools or colleges.

Exam boards should provide guidance and training “to help teachers make objective decisions”, the consultation says.

Last summer, thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm, before Ofqual announced a U-turn allowing them to use teachers’ predictions.

The proportion of A-level and GCSE entries in England awarded top grades surged to a record high after the U-turn meant results could be based on teachers’ estimated grades.

We know that everyone wants clarity on the way ahead quickly. Above all, we need to support students to carry on with their education for the remainder of the academic year
Ofqual's Interim Chief Regulator Simon Lebus

The watchdog has said it is not proposing to ask teachers what grade a student might have received if they had been able to take their exams – which is what teachers were asked in 2020.

“The disruption to the 2021 cohort’s education would make it more difficult for teachers to make such a judgement this year,” the consultation says.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said there were a number of questions to be resolved – particularly around how externally-set papers will provide fairness and consistency for students whose learning has been disrupted by the pandemic to varying extents.

He said: “We can see how a set of papers with flexibility for teachers over the choice of topics on which their students could answer questions might achieve these objectives.

“However, these papers will need to be exceptionally well designed, and this will be a huge challenge given that time is short and nothing like this has been attempted before.”

The suggestion that initial appeals are made directly to the school or college is misguided in principle, and logistically very problematic.”
Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary

On externally-set assessments, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “It is absolutely vital that teachers are given the flexibility to adapt these assessments to assess students on what they have been taught; a one size test will not fit all.

“We are concerned about the proposed processes for appeals. The suggestion that initial appeals are made directly to the school or college is misguided in principle, and logistically very problematic.”

Mr Williamson said: “These proposals should give young people confidence that despite exams being cancelled, they will still receive a grade that reflects their ability.

“This is quite rightly an issue of great public interest and concern and it’s important that those working in education alongside students, parents and employers are able to have their say.”

Ofqual’s interim chief regulator Simon Lebus said: “We know that everyone wants clarity on the way ahead quickly. Above all, we need to support students to carry on with their education for the remainder of the academic year.

“Students and learners will carry with them for the rest of their lives the grades they are given on the basis of these arrangements, so we must make sure they are as fair as they can be in these difficult circumstances.”


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