Students will be allowed to sit exams if they aren't happy with lockdown assessments

30 June 2020, 15:06

Students are to be allowed to sit special exams
Students are to be allowed to sit special exams. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Students unhappy with GCSE and A-level grades awarded by their teachers this summer will be able to take a full raft of exams this autumn, the watchdog has confirmed.

Exams have been cancelled this summer due to the coronavirus crisis and teachers are instead submitting grades to exam boards based on prior assessments.

Ofqual, the government body that oversees educational qualifications, announced on Tuesday that the aim is to allow disgruntled pupils to sit AS level and A-level exams in October and GCSEs in November.

In a statement on the Gov.UK website, Ofqual said: "Exam boards must make exams available in all GCSE, AS and A level subjects in the additional autumn series and we are therefore varying our normal rules that allow exams only to be held in May and June.

"Exam boards must base results on students' performance in exams alone and not on any non-exam assessment, with the exception of art and design qualifications.

"Exam boards must issue replacement certificates for the summer results if students request this.

"The exam boards must adopt the normal arrangements for reviews of marking and appeals."

There is growing concern among students that teachers may downgrade them. Exam boards are said to be bracing for a storm of complaints come results day in August.

Last month Ofqual said teachers must ensure their grades are based on “fair, objective and carefully considered” judgements of pupils’ prior attainment and ability.

In the document published on Tuesday, Ofqual said pupils will initially be able to appeal through their school or college to exam boards, or whole schools can appeal, if they are unhappy with their GCSE and A-level results.

But it said that, from 3,481 consultation responses, “there was strong agreement that exam boards should offer the full suite of exams, with the same number and format of exams as in any normal series” so that pupils could improve their grade.

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Teachers have been told to rank pupils in league tables using resources including mock exam results, homework, coursework to calculate grades, but teachers are not supposed to have set new work during the pandemic. Ofqual can lower a school’s grades if they are too generous.

Last week the think-tank FFT Education Datalab published an analysis of schools’ draft predicted grades that showed the average grade proposed by teachers for 2020 was higher than the average grade awarded in 2019.

The autumn exams throw university places into doubt for many A-level students. With many universities pressing ahead with a September start, albeit with some provision staying online, those who choose to take exams this autumn could be forced to defer the year.