All A-level and GCSE pupils to get teacher assessed grades
PUBLISHED: 16:33 17 August 2020 | UPDATED: 19:05 17 August 2020
© James Bass 2020
A-level and GCSE students will have their results based on teacher assessments after a Government U-turn.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson made the announcement in the House of Common on Monday afternoon.
Pressure had been mounting on the Government after thousands of pupils had their A-level results downgraded.
The cancellation of exams due to the pandemic, meant grades were awarded on the basis of an algorithm, which was put in place by regulator Ofqual, involving teachers’ estimates, the ranking order of pupils and previous results at schools and colleges.
Almost 40pc of A-level students saw their grades adjusted down by one grade or more. It left many with agonising choices on whether to appeal their grades and whether the results will impact their university places.
MORE: ‘Confusion, upset and uncertainty’ - Pressure mounts over downgraded A-level results
The way the results were calculated has also angered schools and colleges.
East Norfolk Sixth Form College said it was preparing to appeal against the grades of over 700 of its students.
Dr Catherine Richards, college principal, said: “Students feel they have this shadow over them. I genuinely feel very upset for them.
“Even those that are happy to have been awarded places at university are still unhappy that they didn’t get the chance to prove how brilliant they are.
“We have had students who have been downgraded by more than one grade. We have got students who haven’t got into their first choice of university who are disappointed.”
She added: “I am a supporter of using centre assessed grades because I think, other than rerunning the whole algorithm with question marks over how that would work, it is a fair way to resolve the situation.”
Over the weekend the Department for Education said it was waiving fee for A-level appeals, while Ofqual said students would be able to use coursework as well as mock exam results to appeal their grades. However within hours, Ofqual suspended its guidance for students and said it was further reviewing the new appeals system.
MORE: ‘Disgraceful’ - teachers and students unhappy at downgraded A-levels
Both A-level and GCSE students will now get results based on teachers’ assessments, unless the grades produced by the controversial algorithm are higher, regulator Ofqual has announced.
Ofqual chairman Roger Taylor said in a statement: “We understand this has been a distressing time for students, who were awarded exam results last week for exams they never took.
“The pandemic has created circumstances no one could have ever imagined or wished for. 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 Williamson had consistently argued that moderation is essential to prevent “rampant grade inflation” and insisted there could be no U-turn on how grades are awarded.
However Jim Adams, chief executive of Clarion Academy Trust, which oversees Hobart High School in Loddon and Pakefield High, near Lowestoft, who is also a spokesman for headteachers’ association, Educate Norfolk, said: “There was always the risk that if you factor in previous school performance, students from schools in more disadvantaged areas would be negatively affected.
“Everyone understands that whatever the government chose to do, it would not please everyone.
“What is unforgivable is the complete lack of any coherent strategy on appeals. This was entirely predictable and should have been planned for.”
MORE: A-level results - what next for students?
The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said: “It is clear now that the algorithm used by Ofqual to determine this year’s A-level and GCSE results is irredeemably flawed.
“It is not in children’s interests for weeks of appeals and arguments among adults to continue. Nor is it in the interest of schools, which should be focusing on their final preparations for reopening safely to all students in September.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, and a former Bury St Edmunds headteacher said: “We welcome the decision to put an end to the grading fiasco by allowing students to receive teacher-assessed grades rather than grades which have been moderated down.
“Students, parents, and teachers will breathe a sigh of relief after days of confusion and dithering by ministers.
“It will provide A-level students with the relief of an immediate solution, and give GCSE students the comfort of knowing that they will not suffer the same injustices in the results due to be published this week.”
He said chaos around GCSE and A-level grades and appeals could have distracted heads from their preparations for all pupils returning to schools next month.
Dr Catherine Richards added: “The difficulty with any appeals process, in our case involving 700 students that we were going to appeal on behalf of, representing over 1,200 individual grades, is the administration and the length of time that was going to take.”
Art student was downgraded by algorithm that didn’t even see her work
Alanah Saunders, 18, said her “heart sank” when she saw her A-level results.
She was “shocked” to find that after her teacher assessed A grade had been downgraded to a B, something that could have cost her a university place, nobody other than her teacher had looked at her sketchbooks to actually assess her work.
The East Norfolk Sixth Form College student wrote to Broadland MP Jerome Mayhew to highlight the “unfair treatment” of students but is now relieved she will get the grade she was predicted.
“It’s such good news and my teachers are relieved as well because they put a lot of time into constructing those grades and I put so much work into securing that A,” she said. “It’s a relief that it is coming from a teacher now and not an algorithm.”
She added: “I couldn’t believe that no-one other than my art teacher had even looked at my book. How can they judge any subject, but especially a creative subject, without actually marking it?”
She will be studying for a foundation art degree at East Norfolk from September, but she said: ““I was lucky in that I still had a college place, but I felt so sorry for people who had lost university places.”
EXAMS CRISIS TIMELINE
March 18 - Boris Johnson announced schools would shut from March 20 to the spread of coronavirus except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. He added that A-level and GCSE exams would not go ahead.
March 20 - Government announced that regulator Ofqual and exam boards would work with teachers to provide grades. The Department for Education said it would ensure students were given grades which “fairly reflect the work that they have put in”.
August 4 - Scottish pupils had their exam results downgraded after the country’s exam body lowered more than 100,000 estimated grades – about 25pc of the total. It faced accusations of bias after figures showed more students from the most deprived backgrounds had their marks downgraded.
August 11 - Following outcry from pupils, Scotland’s education secretary John Swinney agreed to accept teacher’s estimates for grades and upgraded exam results.
August 13 - A-level results day showed nearly 40pc of teacher-assessed grades in England had been downgraded by Ofqual’s moderation algorithm, sparking anger among schools and students. Boris Johnson insisted the system had produced a “robust set of grades”, Labour called for teacher-assessed marks to be reinstated.
August 15 - A-level appeal made free, Ofqual added that students would be able to use coursework as well as mock exam results to appeal their grades.
August 15 - Just hours after releasing its new policy for exam appeals, Ofqual suspended its guidance for students and said it was reviewing the new system.
August 17 - Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Ofqual said A-level and GCSE grades will be awarded on the basis of teacher assessments.
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