Exams regulator Ofqual has announced that GCSE, AS & A-Level results in England this year will now be changed to teacher predicted grades, in a significant U-turn.
The announcement follows days of frustration, anger and uproar across the country, including protests calling for Education Secretary Mr Williamson to resign.
In a statement on Monday afternoon, Chair of Ofqual Roger Taylor said;
“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.
“There was no easy solution to the problem of awarding exam results when no exams have taken place. Ofqual was asked by the Secretary of State to develop a system for awarding calculated grades, which maintained standards and ensured that grades were awarded broadly in line with previous years. Our goal has always been to protect the trust that the public rightly has in educational qualifications.
“But we recognise that while the approach we adopted attempted to achieve these goals we also appreciate that it has also caused real anguish and damaged public confidence. Expecting schools to submit appeals where grades were incorrect placed a burden on teachers when they need to be preparing for the new term and has created uncertainty and anxiety for students. For all of that, we are extremely sorry.”
Exams were cancelled this summer due to the Coronavirus pandemic and teachers were asked to submit their estimates of what they believe students would have achieved if exams had of taken place. However, A-Level results day last Thursday saw a major upset, with nearly 40% of grades marked down from teacher predictions. The controversial moderation system has caused anxiety among many students with lowered grades about their future job prospects, while others have lost places on apprenticeships and places to study at university.
The moderation system, which looked at the previous results of individuals and their school more widely, has been described as ‘flawed’ by many, with some students receiving ‘E’ grades, despite being predicted ‘A’ grades. Around 3% of the grades that were moderated were lowered by two whole grades, having a major impact on students.
With concerns being raised about the moderation system even before results day, Mr Williamson had said that where students had achieved higher grades in mock exams than in their results handed down from exam boards, they would be able to use this as the basis for an appeal. However, details about how this would work were not worked out until the week of results day itself, and details were not announced until Saturday, two days after results day.
Just hours after the exams regulator Ofqual published a list of criteria that schools needed to have met for mock exam grades to be considered valid, the criteria and guidance was pulled, with Ofqual saying they were reviewing the policy.
During the exam grades crisis, there has been limited communication from the Department for Education with schools and students and on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson started a ‘staycation’ in Scotland. Mr Johnson spoke with Mr Williamson on Monday over a call regarding the issues, however, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the PM of being “invisible” during the crisis and called on him to cancel his holiday and take “personal responsibility” for fixing the problems.
The PM had defended the grading system last week as ‘robust’ and said on Monday that he still had confidence in The Education Secretary.
The U-turn on Monday afternoon will relieve many students, though, for some, it is feared that the move will have come too late, with their Post-18 plans already changed.
It comes after similar chaos in Scotland a week earlier, which led to the country’s Education Minister John Swinney announcing the scrapping of their moderation system for the summer exam results.
The announcement on Monday in England also impacts GCSE results which are due to be released this Thursday (20 August). Reports had suggested that under the moderation system, as many as 97% results were set to change from teacher predictions.
How do the results systems differ across the UK?
- In England, results will be changed to teacher predicted grades. Where students received a higher grade on the moderation system, the higher grade will still stand. This applies to GCSE, AS and A-Level grades.
- In Wales, results will now be given on the basis of teacher assessments. Where students received a higher grade on the moderation system, the higher grade will still stand. This applies to A-Level, AS, GCSE, Skills Challenge Certificate and Welsh Baccalaureate grades in Wales.
- In Northern Ireland, GCSE grades will be based on teacher predicted grades only. A-Level grades will still use the moderation system.
- In Scotland, results were changed so that they were only based upon teacher assessments.
What will happen for university applicants?
It is understood that the new grades in England will be added to UCAS’s systems by the end of the week.
The move should allow more students to meet the requirements of their offers and take up places at universities from next month.
However, not all students are expected to be as lucky. Some universities held offers to allow students time to appeal their results, however, some universities did not hold offers and filled places with other students instead.