Ofqual has suspended its criteria for pupils wanting to appeal their A levels and GCSEs - what it means

Monday, 17th August 2020, 3:25 pm
Updated Monday, 17th August 2020, 4:33 pm
Ofqual is reviewing its process for appeals (Photo: Shutterstock)

Ofqual has suspended its criteria for pupils hoping to appeal the results of their A level and GCSE grades on the basis of their mock exam results.

The exams regulator withdrew its guidance just hours after it was published and is now reviewing its process for appeals. Here’s what you need to know.

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Why has guidance been suspended?

On Saturday (15 August), Ofqual published guidance on what constituted a “valid” mock exam for pupils who were unhappy with their A level results in England.

In the guidance, Ofqual appeared to allow a wide range of mock exams and “non-exam assessment” to be submitted as evidence for an appeal.

Where a written mock exam was not taken, Ofqual said it would consider other teacher assessments instead.

It also said that successful appeals would mean the new Ofqual result would be replaced by either the teacher-assessed grade, or the mock-exam grade - whichever mark was lower.

This contradicted previous assurance from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson who said that pupils would receive their mock grade results after appeal.

However, by 11pm on Saturday (15 August) evening the guidance had been removed from the Ofqual website, with a statement from the regulator reading: “Earlier today we published information about mock exam results in appeals.

“This policy is being reviewed by the Ofqual board and further information will be published in due course.”

As yet, Ofqual has made no further comment on the appeal process.

What happened to the planned appeal process?

On Tuesday (11 August) last week, Mr Williamson said that pupils in England would be permitted to use grades from their mock exams as the basis for an appeal if they were higher than their results allocated by Ofqual, for both A level and GCSE exams.

The exam regulator was then to determine how and when valid mock results could be used, with schools required to submit evidence to the board.

The details of this process were left up to Ofqual to decide by Monday (17 August), but the Department for Education (DfE) appeared not to have consulted the regulator on these new grounds for appeal.

In a letter issued to headteachers on Saturday (15 August) evening, schools minister Nick Gibb stated that grounds for appeal included “where a student has a valid mock result which is higher than the grade they have been awarded and wishes to have their mock result stand instead. Ofqual has issued criteria on what constitutes a valid mock result”. Mr Gibb then posted a link to the now-removed web page.

On Sunday (16 August) evening, the DfE issued a statement which said: “We have been clear that we want to build as much fairness into the appeals process as possible to help young people in the most difficult cases and have been working with Ofqual to achieve that.

“Ofqual continues to consider how to best deliver the appeals process to give schools and pupils the clarity they need.”

How have exams been graded?

A level and GCSE pupils were given three different options in regard to their final exam results, after the government introduced a new ‘triple-lock’ system.

Under this process, pupils can either accept their predicted grade, revert to grades obtained in their mock results earlier this year, or sit their exams in autumn.

However, Ofqual said that it was forced to downgrade thousands of A level results owing to “implausibly high” predictions submitted by teachers.

Pupils have since complained they have been let down by the system, forcing the government to review its moderation and appeals process.

On Tuesday afternoon (17 August), Ofqual announced that all A level and GCSE results in England will now be based on teachers’ assessments of their students instead, unless the grades produced by the controversial algorithm are higher.

In a statement, Ofqual chairman Roger Taylor said: “We want to now take steps to remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people as possible – and to free up heads and teachers to work towards the important task of getting all schools open in two weeks.

“After reflection, we have decided that the best way to do this is to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted. The switch to centre assessment grades will apply to both AS and A levels and to the GCSE results which students will receive later this week.”

Mr Taylor confirmed that pupils can be awarded school or college estimated grade, or the moderated grade - whichever is the highest.

Mr Taylor confirmed that pupils can be awarded school or college estimated grade, or the moderated grade - whichever is the highest. He also apologised for expecting schools to submit appeals where grades were incorrect, stating it placed a burden on teachers and created uncertainty and anxiety for pupils.

He added “The path forward we now plan to implement will provide urgent clarity. We are already working with the Department for Education, universities and everyone else affected by this issue.”

What happens if I want to appeal?

Pupils who wish to appeal their awarded grade should wait until the new guidance on the process has been announced, to ensure they meet the required criteria.

Those who are applying for university or college places should inform admissions officers if they have a mock exam result that is higher than their awarded grade from Ofqual.

What will happen to GCSE results?

Pupils are due to receive their GCSE results on Thursday 20 August, by which time the government is expected to have an appeal process in place.