A-levels and GCSEs: Free exam appeals for schools

Education: Secondary / Sat 15th Aug 2020 at 07:41am

THE government will cover the cost of schools in England appealing against exam grades after 280,000 A-level students had their marks downgraded reports the BBC.

Ministers are also expected to set up a taskforce, led by Schools Minister Nick Gibb, to oversee the appeals process.

The government previously said it wants the process to conclude by 7 September.

But letting schools appeal for free is “cold comfort” for pupils, the Liberal Democrats said, adding the move “should never have been needed”.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told The Times the government would cover the fees in a bid to ensure that head teachers were not deterred from making appeals.

There had been fears that the costs – which can reach £150 – could stop schools from taking on harder to prove cases.

The regulator, Ofqual, will give more details next week.

Nearly 40% of A-level grades awarded on Thursday were lower than teachers’ predictions, prompting anger among schools, colleges and students.

The new grades meant many missed out on university places. But Oxford’s Worcester College said it will honour all places it offered to UK students, irrespective of their A-level results.

The Liberal Democrats welcomed the announcement over appeals costs, but called on Mr Williamson to resign.

The party’s education spokeswoman, Layla Moran, said: “For the young people who have worked so hard to not get the results they deserve, through no fault of their own, this announcement alone will be cold comfort.”

“While this should never have been needed, it is right the government has listened to the Liberal Democrats and others and U-turned.”

Ms Moran added: “Ultimately, after Gavin Williamson’s botched handling of the process thus far, pupils will have no confidence in him to fix the broken glass. Before he causes any more hurt, he must go.”

Earlier, Labour called on ministers to act immediately to sort out an “exams fiasco” in England and stop thousands of A-level students being “betrayed”.
And some Tory MPs have challenged the fairness of how grades have been decided.
BBC News political correspondent Helen Catt said having “an efficient and effective” appeals process “is going to be really important in making sure more Tories don’t join them”.

After exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, grades were awarded using a controversial modelling system, with the key factors being the ranking order of pupils and the previous exam results of schools and colleges.

This produced more top grades than have ever been seen before in A-levels, with almost 28% getting A* and As, but head teachers have been angry about “unfathomable” individual injustices in the downgrading of some results.

In England, 36% of entries had grades lower than their teachers predicted and 3% were down two grades.

There has since been calls to switch away from this system and to use teachers’ predictions, in the way that the government U-turned in Scotland.

But England’s exam watchdog Ofqual has warned that using teachers’ predictions would have artificially inflated results – and would have seen about 38% of entries getting A*s and As.

Labour said the lack of consistency in individual results was “heartbreaking” for those affected and the government was squarely to blame for sticking with a “fatally flawed results system”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously defended what he said were a “robust set” of grades and said that pupils who believed they were treated unfairly would be able to appeal or, if they wanted, sit exams in the autumn.

Schools can appeal for an upgrade if their pupils’ mock grades were higher than their estimated results.

But the exam regulator Ofqual has still to say how a mock exam result can be validated – and head teachers have warned that mocks are not standardised or taken by all pupils, and could not be used as a fair way of deciding final exam results.

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