GCSE Results Day 2020: Will they be delayed and will A-level controversy affect them?

17 August 2020, 11:05 | Updated: 17 August 2020, 11:30

GCSE results will be released on Thursday
GCSE results will be released on Thursday. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Year 11 pupils will receive their GCSE results on Thursday, being handed a calculated grade instead of sitting exams amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last Thursday's A-level results caused a national outcry after more than 40 per cent of grades were marked down as a result of the standardisation process based on an algorithm.

But how will GCSE results be calculated and is the Government expected to delay their release amid the controversy?

When will GCSE results be released?

GCSE results will be released on Thursday, with students able to collect their grades from 8am.

Some schools, like with A-levels, will stagger the times to avoid too many students arriving at one time.

How will they be calculated?

GCSE grades have, for the past four years, been calculated as numbers rather than the traditional letter system.

Under the new structure, a 9 is the equivalent of an A*, with a 7 an A, 6 a B, 4 a C, and so on.

Results will be moderated using the same algorithm as A-level results.

It uses a mathematical model that takes into account the past performance of schools to decide upon results.

The grades were calculated using two pieces of data – a centre assessment grade, which is provided by teachers based on past attainment, and a rank order position, which is the order of students within each subject.

Almost 40 per cent of all A-level grades in England were marked down as a result of the standardisation process, and ministers are now braced for another backlash.

The Government announced last week that students will be able to use results in valid mock exams to appeal if they are unhappy with their results.

But universities, schools, teachers and students have been demanding clarity over how the process will work.

Will the Government make a U-turn after the A-level controversy?

The Prime Minister has been urged to delay GCSE results after last week’s A-level outrage.

On Monday, Stormont's Education Minister announced that students in Northern Ireland will be awarded GCSE grades predicted by their teachers, rather than standardised results.

Northern Ireland’s exams body, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), had planned to use an algorithm which did not take a pupil’s past academic performance into account when calculating GCSEs, but rowed back after the A-level controversy.

Critics of the process argued it would have been highly unfair for pupils' grades to be influenced by what former GCSE students attained.

Scotland also made a U-turn, with the Government awarding A-level students teacher assessment grades.

The Government could face a legal challenge over the situation, with Greater Manchester's Mayor Andy Burnham instructing lawyers.

"I will be taking legal advice this morning and have instructed leading counsel," he said. "I expect to be writing to Ofqual later today to initiate action."

What are leading bodies and politicians saying?

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said a combination of teacher assessments and mocks should be used for grades, with the controversial algorithm - meant to standardise results – abandoned.

Ex-minister Stephen Hammond said the A-level process had turned into a "shambles" after regulator Ofqual published its guidance on appeals over the weekend only to withdraw the document hours later.

A member of the advisory group to Ofqual has warned of "another wave" of grades that do not reflect those given by teachers when GCSE results are published.

Professor Tina Isaacs, who sits on regulator Ofqual's advisory group, warned that Thursday could see "another wave" of grades that do not reflect those given by teachers.

She warned the Government and regulator Ofqual need to "claw back" public confidence after A-level results day.

"Ofqual's role is to carry out Government policy. And when policy shifts every 12 to 24 hours, Ofqual then has to deal with it as best as it can," she Professor Isaacs said.

"Hence the changes to the appeals process, which now Ofqual has taken off the board so that it can give as much consideration to it as possible given the timeframe.

"The GCSE results are due out on Thursday, so we're going to have another wave of potentially, not marked down, but potentially student grades that do not reflect the grades their teachers gave them."

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the option of awarding pupils their GCSE results based on teacher-assessed grades should be kept on the table.

Professor Isaacs said: "Right now what's happening is the public is losing confidence in the system."

She said the regulator and the Government needed to do something to get public confidence back.

She said: "And it is up to Ofqual, which I know is working very hard, it's up to Ofqual and especially the Government to try to put in place something that will claw back some of that public confidence.

"I'm afraid it will not be able to claw back all of it."

Former Conservative education secretary Lord Baker, who introduced the GCSE system in the late 1980s, said that GCSE results should be delayed for two weeks, due to the algorithm.

"The A-level results have produced hundreds of thousands of unfair and barely explicable downgrades," he said in a statement.

"They have helped smaller private schools but hit the brighter students in a poorly performing state school. It is not surprising that various parties are considering legal actions.

"If you are in a hole, stop digging."

The former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, who served in coalition with the Conservatives under David Cameron, warned the issue would cause the Government "lasting harm".

Speaking to the BBC he said one "act of ill will" in particular could rebound on ministers.

"The Royal Statistical Society offered help to try and improve this algorithm, to make it more genuine and realistic," he said.

"And the help was refused because the statisticians were not willing to sign a gagging clause promising not to reveal what they found.

"That kind of dishonesty in the background really doesn't help the smell around this whole thing."

Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Academy Trust, has called for GCSE results to be postponed.

Mr Chalke told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think there should be a delay. I think there should be an apology for the A-levels, a humble apology, and I think that there should be a delay around the GCSEs because it is better to reflect on what has happened, for Ofqual and for the Government to reflect and then respond having consulted with people outside of their own systems, with senior educationalists, rather than react and then regret, and then withdraw and then put a plan forward etc."

He added: "The pastoral disaster for young people, that is the biggest thing. So now is the time to stop, to pause, to reflect.

"I wouldn't go with something subjective ... the problem with teacher assessments is, as I think I heard on this programme earlier, some teachers assess very positively, they're glass half full - and some are glass half empty people - so that won't produce fairness at all.

"After reflection, it may be decided it is the best possible answer that we're left with, but let's not make all the same mistakes over the GCSEs."