Pupils CAN use teacher's predicted grades to appeal GCSE and A-Levels

Pupils CAN now use teacher’s predicted grades to challenge GCSE and A-Levels results as ministers are accused of doing a ‘Sturgeon by the back door’ after major U-turn

  • Office for Qualifications and Examinations Regulation last night revealed U-turn
  • Students can now appeal their A-level and GCSE grades using predicted grades
  • But pupils cannot use mock grades when appealing after Ofqual changed mind
  • It mirrors the move made by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week 

Ministers have been accused of doing a ‘Sturgeon by the back door’ as they allow students to challenge results using their teachers’ predicted grades.

The Office for Qualifications and Examinations Regulation last night revealed the major U-turn after a furious backlash from pupils when marks were downgraded.

Students can now appeal their A-level and GCSE grades free of charge using their teachers’ predicted marks, but not their mock exam results.

It mirrors the move by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week, where she withdrew downgraded results and allowed pupils to use their predicted grades.

But Ofqual last night suspended its criteria for students looking to appeal their results using their mocks, hours after saying they could be able to.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, pictured, has faced calls to resign over results fiasco

Students wearing face masks take part in a protest in Westminster in London over the government’s handling of A-level results, university provision and employment prospects

Former chief examiner Dr Tony Breslin told the Telegraph: ‘What they have worked out, to be blunt, is that the suggestion of using mocks to appeal was so ill thought-out that if something is going to be used from the centre then surely it is smarter to use a centre assessed grade that has been arrived at after an incredibly rigorous process, which Ofqual set the rules for.

‘They never set the rules for mocks. They simply don’t know what they are buying. What this announcement confirms is that Ofqual thinks the centre assessed grades, that they didn’t want to go with, are in fact more reliable than the mock exams, that they are being told to go with.’

He added: ‘This does look increasingly like they are doing a Sturgeon by the back door.’

Teachers’ predicated grades are seen as a better indicator of a student’s level than their mock exam results, according to the Ofqual document.

Mocks do not always cover the whole syllabus and often test a student’s knowledge on select areas.

The exam regulator said if mock results are higher than teachers’ predicted grades, then the latter should be used.

An Ofqual spokesman said: ‘The arrangements in place are the fairest possible in the absence of exams.

‘However, any process for calculating grades will inevitably produce some results which need to be queried.’

He said mocks ‘do not normally cover the full range of content’, adding: ‘Centre assessment grades took into account student performance across the whole course.

‘In circumstances where the centre assessment grade was lower than the mock grade, the student will receive the centre assessment grade.’

Students and parents hold a placards outside Downing Street in London on Friday, after nearly 40 per cent of results were downgraded by the computer model deployed when exams had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis, affecting disadvantaged areas most

Students and teachers protest outside Downing against the downgrading of A-level results

Ofqual dramatically suspended its criteria for students hoping to challenge their A-level grades on the basis of their results in mock exams last night.

In a brief statement, Ofqual said the policy was ‘being reviewed’ by its board and that further information would be released ‘in due course’.

No reason for the decision was immediately available, sparking confusion for parents across the country and calls for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to resign.

The move came just hours after the body published its criteria for mock exam results to be considered as the basis of an appeal.

Agony of teens left in limbo 

Lucy Lipfriend has been left in limbo for a second year after missing out on her Cambridge University place.

The 19-year-old needed to achieve A*AA in her A-level resits this summer to study theology, religion and philosophy of religion at Clare College.

But the teenager, from Northwood, north-west London, was downgraded to three Bs by the computer algorithm after exams were cancelled.

She believes this was due to her poor performance in last year’s A-level exams – which she took when her mother Tina had been diagnosed with breast cancer – being taken into account.

Her grades slipped to a C in philosophy, a B in English literature and an E in maths last summer, despite high teacher predictions. Lucy took a year out, planned to resit the exams as a private candidate, and won a Cambridge offer. After exams were axed, her former teachers at St Helen’s, a private day school in Northwood, submitted grades of A*AA.

Three private tutors, who helped her over the last year, predicted three A*s.

But her grades were pulled down and her university place hangs in the balance – depending on her appeal.

Lucy said: ‘I’ve worked really hard for a year and through no fault of my own I haven’t been able to get a place at the university I’ve always dreamt of going to. Grades shouldn’t be determined by a computer.

‘I don’t think you can necessarily base one student’s grades on what they may have achieved in the past or what other students that happened to go to their school achieved in the past.’

Lucy says Cambridge has encouraged her to appeal, but she must get her grades overturned by August 31.

It threatened to plunge the A-level process into further disarray following an outcry from students after almost 40 per cent of predicted grades were downgraded by the regulator’s ‘moderation’ algorithm.

In a statement late on Saturday, an Ofqual spokesman said: ‘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.’

Ofqual had earlier yesterday revealed details on how students can appeal against their A-level results using grades from mock tests.

The exams regulator said it would allow non-exam assessment marks to be used to ‘make sure this opportunity is available to a wide range of students, including those who had not taken a written mock exam before schools and colleges closed’.

It also confirmed no grades would be lowered as a result of an appeal however the initial set of criteria has now been suspended.

The suspension of their most recent policy has been criticised as causing more confusion amid the results chaos that has resulted.

The chairman of the Commons Education Committee said it was ‘unacceptable’ the way Ofqual had issued the guidance only to withdraw it.

MP Robert Halfon told BBC News: ‘That is a huge mess. Goodness knows what is going on at Ofqual. It is the last thing we need at this time. This just unacceptable in my view.

‘Students and teachers are incredibly anxious – particularly the students who are worried about their future. This has got to be sorted out.

‘Ofqual shouldn’t put things on websites, take them away, sow confusion. This is just not on and it has got to be changed.’

Labour MP Yvette Cooper said: ‘Even more unbelievable chaos & incompetence. Young people’s futures are being screwed up by this & Govt doesn’t seem to have a clue what it’s doing.’

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: ‘Gavin Williamson promised to give students a triple lock, but instead he left many devastated by unfair exam results, and now his commitment to give them another chance is rapidly unravelling,’ she said.

‘Having promised that students will be able to use a valid mock result, the reality is that many will not receive these grades even if they represent a student’s best result.

‘The latest chaos is the inevitable consequence of this Government’s shambolic approach to exams, which saw solutions dreamt up on the back of a cigarette packet and announced barely a day before young people received their results.’

The regulator said mock grades would be valid if they came from appropriately supervised assessments where there was ‘no possibility of correction’, provided the assessment was produced by a relevant exam board or developed by a teacher in line with a previous exam.

Data revealed that the marks of poorer pupils in England were more likely to be downgraded by the algorithm

Mock grades must also have been marked in line with an exam board’s regular standards and assessments must have been completed and graded by March 20 2020.

Ofqual had earlier confirmed appeals using mock results could begin from Monday and would apply for GCSE, AS and A-level students as well as those taking Extended Project Qualifications and Advanced Extension Award in maths.

A Level appeal questions answered based on the initial Ofqual criteria

– Who can appeal?

The Government has confirmed appeals using mock results will be open to GCSE, AS and A-level students as well as those taking Extended Project Qualifications and the Advanced Extension Award in maths.

Ofqual said this route of appeal is open to any student with a higher mock grade than their calculated one.

– When can they appeal?

Exam boards have confirmed they will be ready to process these appeals from Monday and students are asked to contact their school or college.

– What work can be used?

In the details released by Ofqual on Saturday, the regulator said that past assessments from the relevant exam board can be used, such as past papers.

Mock exams or assessments created by teachers can also be used as long as they are similar to past exams in the style and content covered.

Marked coursework can also be used if students did not take a written mock exam before their school or college closed, but it must have been completed in the conditions set by the relevant exam board.

It can also be used in addition to mock exam results.

– What conditions are required?

Mock assessments used for an appeal must have been supervised, previously unseen and taken in conditions that ensure the work is the student’s own.

This includes invigilation, not having the possibility of corrections or revisions, and students not having access to study materials banned in exams.

The mocks also need to have been taken under timed conditions that match up to the time provided in normal exams, with adjustments allowed for students eligible for extra time.

It must have been completed within the programme of study and by March 20, when most schools and colleges were closed.

– What must the mock assessment cover?

Mock assessments used for the appeal must have ‘substantial coverage’ of the normally-assessed curriculum, equivalent to an exam paper or one non-examination assessed task.

– What about the centre assessment grades?

Schools and colleges were told to submit the grades they thought each student would have received if they had sat the papers, alongside a rank order of students.

Ofqual said on Saturday the centre assessment grades took the student’s performance over the whole course into account, whereas mock assessments do not normally cover the full range of content.

This means if a student’s mock result is higher than the centre assessment grade, they will receive the lower grade.

The regulator added that no grades will go down as a result of an appeal.

– What about marking?

The mocks must have been marked using a marking scheme provided by the relevant exam board, or one that matches up to the exam board’s marking scheme.

The grade given as a result of the mock must be in line with the relevant exam board’s standard.

This can include using the grade boundaries from the exam board when a past paper has been used.

– What do schools need to do?

Schools and colleges need to be able to provide evidence for the entire subject cohort if required.

Ofqual said this includes proof of the marks given, evidence marking was carried out by the deadline as well as the exam paper and mark scheme used.

The student’s written paper does not need to have been kept.

The Government previously confirmed schools in England will be able to appeal against A-level and GCSE grades free of charge.

State-funded schools and colleges will also be able to claim back the cost of unsuccessful appeals as well as fees for autumn exams, the Department for Education said.

The latest setback comes as ministers are braced for a fresh backlash when GCSE results for England are announced on Thursday.

Like A-level results, they will initially be based on teacher assessments and then ‘moderated’ by the Ofqual algorithm to bring them in line with previous years’.

According to the Observer, more than 4.6million GCSEs in England – about 97 per cent – will be assigned solely based on the controversial algorithm drawn up by Ofqual.

It has been reported the government is expected to face a legal challenge over its results chaos within days.

Mr Williamson has said the process was necessary to prevent ‘grade inflation’ which would render the results worthless after actual exams had to be abandoned due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Education Secretary has faced calls to resign from students, teachers and fellow-politicians including the Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey.

Labour has also joined calls for Mr Williamson to resign as MP Rupa Huq said: ‘He’s out of his depth and should quit. At least he has an alternative career ahead as a Frank Spencer impersonator.’

Critics have complained the algorithm has led to thousands of individual injustices, disproportionately penalising students from schools serving disadvantaged communities. 

 Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, criticised the process, branding it ‘surreal and bureaucratic’.

He said: ‘This is clearly a face-saving exercise by a Government which has said that it won’t do a U-turn on its pledge that moderated grades will stand, come what may.

‘Instead, it is attempting to remedy the grading fiasco through an appeals process so surreal and bureaucratic that it would be better off at this point doing that U-turn and allowing original teacher-assessed grades, where they are higher, to replace moderated grades.

‘That would be a better approach than this appeals system as it would mean students would get revised A-level grades immediately on the basis of the teacher assessments already conducted, which draw on the very evidence that is now proposed as part of the appeals process.’

He added: ‘We don’t blame Ofqual for the bizarre nature of the appeals criteria. The regulator has been given a hospital pass by a Government that is in disarray.

‘It is time for ministers to stop the chaos and fall back on teacher-assessed grades rather than prolong this nightmare.’

The news comes as the Welsh government has also confirmed students in Wales will be able to appeal against their A-level grades if they are lower than their teachers’ predictions.

There has been an outcry in Wales after 42% of all A-level grades were lowered during the moderation process.

Education minister Kirsty Williams had said appeals would be allowed if ‘there is evidence’ pupils should have received higher grades.

Before the results were published on Thursday, Ms Williams announced that final grades would not be lower than pupils’ earlier AS results.

‘Earlier this week I directed Qualifications Wales to broaden the grounds for appeal for A-levels, AS, Skills Challenge Certificate and GCSEs,’ she said.

‘Today, they have now confirmed what this means for students.

‘I accept that learners wanted and needed more clarity, and I believe this achieves that.

‘Qualification Wales and the WJEC will share the full details, but appeals can now be made where there is evidence of internal assessments that has been judged by the school or college to be at a higher grade than the grade they have been awarded.

‘There is a guarantee that no-one will receive a lower grade after appeal and all appeals are free.’

Regulator Qualifications Wales said schools would be able to appeal to exam board WJEC if they: they used the wrong data when calculating a grade, the calculated grades generated by the statistical standardisation model were incorrectly allocated or communicated, there was some other procedural failing on the part of WJEC, there is evidence of internal assessment that has been judged by the school or college to be at a higher grade than the calculated grade awarded.

The regulator said no grades would be lowered as a result of an appeal and would either go up or stay the same.

The moderation system overseen by Qualifications Wales and WJEC has been criticised by pupils, teachers, unions and opposition politicians.

This year’s exams were cancelled across the UK because of the coronavirus lockdown and there are fears the replacement grading system will create a postcode lottery.

A record 29.9 per cent of students recorded an A or A* grades, which is less than the 40.4 per cent who were estimated to receive top grades by teachers.

The Joint Council for Qualifications said the grades submitted by schools and colleges were ‘optimistic and, without standardisation, would have produced atypically high outcomes’.

Students, teachers and parents hold placards and wear face masks as they protest against downgraded A level results due to Covid-19

Students burn their A-Level results at the London Dungeon as students find out whether they have got a university place

Students wearing face masks take part in a protest over the government’s handling of results

Adam Price, Plaid Cymru leader, said: ‘Pupils who were awarded lesser grades than the teacher assessments in A-level and AS exams should be upgraded to the teacher assessment grades.

‘If this approach is being advocated by the UK Labour leader in England, why is the Labour First Minister in Wales so stubbornly against?’

‘Further, this should be used as the mechanism for awarding GCSE results and this should be communicated to learners today for peace of mind.’

The Senedd’s children, young people and education committee will be recalled on Tuesday and has invited the Welsh Government, Qualification Wales and WJEC to provide information and answer questions.

Committee chair Lynne Neagle said: ‘Given the significant concerns and complexities surrounding the awarding of exam results this year we will be meeting urgently to seek clarity for those who’ve been through this challenging process in unprecedented times’.

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