What will GCSE, A-level and vocational exam changes mean for students?
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Exams are a stressful time for pupils at the best of times, but the coronavirus crisis had added a layer of uncertainty to those who were expecting to sit them this summer.
When schools and colleges closed their doors to a majority of pupils indefinitely in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, the cancellation of all summer term exams brought some certainty to some pupils, knowing they wouldn’t sit an exam, it’s also added to existing confusion.
Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said cancelling exams was something no education secretary would ever want to do, but it was vital in these “extraordinary times”.
“My priority now is to ensure no young person faces a barrier when it comes to moving onto the next stage of their lives - whether that’s further or higher education, and apprenticeship of a job,” he said.
Instead of answering a test paper in a crowded exam hall, this year, A-level, AS level and GCSE students will be awarded a ‘calculated grade’, a new process being developed by exam regulator, Ofqual.
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Those who had been due to sit technical and vocational qualifications will also be affected.
But what does this mean for students? Jerry White, deputy principal at City College Norwich, answers some of the burning questions...
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Will I get graded on my work up until now?
Yes. For all GCSEs, A-levels, and technical and vocational qualifications, students who were due to complete their courses will receive a grade that is calculated on the work they had done up until the point that schools and colleges had to close because of coronavirus.
How will my grades be worked out?
All schools and colleges have been provided with in-depth guidance that will be used to arrive at a calculated grade for every student who was due to complete their qualification this summer. This draws on a range of evidence, including your classwork and homework, your results in assignments and mock exams, and non-exam assessment or coursework you might have done, as well as your general progress during your course. The grades that each school and college submit for their students will be checked nationally to ensure they are fair and comparable to other years.
Can I challenge the grades I’m awarded for if I don’t agree with them?
Yes, there will be a process in place for appealing the grades you have been awarded. For GCSEs and A-levels, any student who wishes to will also have the option of sitting the exam at a later date. If you are an A-level student, it is important to be aware that appealing your grade could take several weeks – and, as a result, this could mean that you are unable to take up a Higher Education place this autumn.
Will I have to do work this term to get my qualifications?
No. All the evidence for arriving at grades will be based on work that was completed before the closure of schools and colleges. So no student will be at a disadvantage if they either weren’t set work, or were unable to complete work, given out following the closures.
With this summer’s exams having been cancelled, students will be awarded a calculated grade. This will be produced from a range of evidence provided by teachers, including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment, combined with data from the exam boards. However, most schools and colleges will have continued to set work to help you continue to learn and be ready for your next step in your educational journey, so it would be great if you are able to do some of that work.
Will my grades be seen as the same value as those from previous years?
Yes. The national regulator of qualifications, Ofqual, has been very clear in telling universities and colleges that this year’s grades must be viewed in the same way as those from any other year. This is supported by the thorough processes that have been put in place, which will draw on a wide of evidence in determining this year’s grades.
I was due to take a GCSE a year earlier than normal at the end of Year 10, will I still receive a grade this year?
It looks very likely, at this stage, that Year 10 students in this position will be awarded a grade in the same way as their Year 11 counterparts. Ofqual is currently undertaking a consultation on this, so it is still to be confirmed.
I am home schooled and was entered for her GCSE exams through my local school or college. What will happen with my grades?
Unfortunately, as things stand, those who are home school educated are unlikely to be awarded a grade and will instead have to sit the exams at a later date. This is because the assessment centre – the school or college where you were due to sit the exam – can only calculate a grade for you if they have an in-depth knowledge of how you were taught and assessed, and how you were doing in the course. By the very nature of home education, assessment centres simply do not have this information. Ofqual has recognised that home educated children are a particular group who may be disadvantaged by the current unprecedented situation and are looking at it currently – so there may be more to come on this.
NEXT: On Friday, May 1, Jerry White will be answering questions about what the changes will mean for students progressing into higher education and how make the most of the current situation