The government has announced that appeals of A-Level, AS Level and GCSE results will be free for schools and colleges this year.
The confirmation from the Department of Education on Saturday came after thousands of students missed out on originally offered places to study at university due to a controversial exam grades moderation system
With exams cancelled this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, A-Level results were estimated based upon teachers predictions, however, about 40% of grades were then moderated, with moderators looking at previous results of each student and their school as a whole. Of those moderated, around 36% were downgraded by at least one grade.
The controversial moderation system has seen thousands of students left angry and frustrated, with many missing out on places to study at their preferred universities due to the lowered grades. Some protestors demonstrated on Friday against the government’s handling of the results process and the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on ministers to act immediately to sort out the “exams fiasco”.
It is also believed that the government has come under pressure from its own MPs to resolve the problems, which represent a similar crisis to that of the Scottish exam results which were released last week.
The waiving of grade appeal fees, which can cost over £100 per exam, may encourage more schools to appeal grades, but will still leave students with an anxious wait where they feel they have been unfairly graded down.
Around 3% of entries were moderated down by at least two grades and some students have complained of having grades downgraded even further from their teacher’s predictions, some by three grades.
Universities had been told to be extra flexible this year and some have held places for those whose results are to go through the appeal process. However, not all applicants have been so lucky, with some losing UCAS places and left concerned about their future.
In addition to the waiving of the appeal fees, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has asked schools minister Nick Gibb to set up a ‘Gold Command’ task force working with the exam regulator Ofqual and exam boards. The task force will be responsible for overseeing the appeals process and is set to meet daily until 7 September.
Discussing the waiving of appeal fees, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
“Hundreds of thousands of students received results this week that will take them onto the next stage of their lives, with a record number of 18-year-olds securing places at their first-choice university.
“I know that alongside the success of so many young people, there have been some difficult cases. I have said repeatedly that my absolute priority is fairness for students, and I do not want anything holding them back from achieving the grades they deserve.
“So all result appeals for state funded schools and colleges will be free, helping to make sure every single student has the best possible chance of securing the grades they need in order to take their next step.”
The government has claimed that their action “ensures the fairest possible approach in the absence of exams”, though Labour have criticised the response.
In a tweet on Saturday morning, Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner said;
“The offer from the government to pay for the costs of appeals over the A level results fiasco is a knee jerk response to a serious issue for disadvantaged students, many universities are saying they are full and turning students away, the government have seriously failed our YP”
A-Level results were released on 13 August, with GCSE results set to be released next Thursday, 20 August – results which have also been calculated partly based off algorithms.