Updated: 18 August
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.
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.
We have therefore decided that students be awarded their centre assessment for this summer – that is, the grade their school or college estimated was the grade they would most likely have achieved in their exam – or the moderated grade, whichever is higher.
The path forward we now plan to implement will provide urgent clarity. We are already working with the Department for Education, universities and everyone else affected by this issue.
We know that it has been a really unsettling few months for students, since schools, colleges and other providers were closed to many and exams were cancelled. We are writing to reassure you about what has been put in place so students are able to move on to further study or employment, with results which carry the same value as any other year.
How grades have been set this year
After exams were cancelled we worked with exam boards and leading assessment experts to develop a reliable method to calculate student grades. This involved asking each school or college to tell us what grade they believed each student would have received in each subject if exams had gone ahead, and how their expected performance compared to others in their class. We know teachers worked extremely hard to deliver this year’s arrangements and the majority of grades students receive will be the same, or within one grade, as their centre’s judgements – reflecting the skills, professionalism and integrity of those involved.
Schools and colleges used a range of evidence to make their judgements including non-exam assessments, results of homework assignments or mock exams and any other records of student performance over the course of study. At least two teachers were involved in agreeing each proposed grade, and each one was signed off by the head teacher or college principal.
Making sure results are as fair as they can be
It is really important that we make sure the same standard is applied for all students, whichever school, college, or part of the country they come from. That’s why we have calculated all results using the same method, which makes sure we have a level playing field for all students and results across the country are comparable. The overwhelming majority of people who responded to our consultation – including teachers and students – supported the aims of our moderation approach, because they know that if the results were not moderated, they would be unfair.
This means that this year’s results will have the same value as in any other year. Students, universities, colleges and employers can have confidence in the results – allowing the class of 2020 to compete fairly with students from previous and future years.
Despite some reports, you can be assured that the moderation process does not mean a blanket reduction in the grades that teachers put forward. Adjustments will vary across schools and colleges, and in different subjects, and will only be made where the evidence supports them.
The grades awarded will be based either entirely on the teachers’ judgements, or on a combination of their judgements and the statistical moderation. Where the moderation process finds that a school or college has over or under-estimated the likely number of students achieving a grade, the students who are moved up or down a grade are those the centre felt were closest to the grade boundary. No grade is being awarded purely on the basis of statistics.
Although the process of moderation is essential to ensure results are as fair as they can be, there is nothing fair about the fact that Covid-19 has denied young people this year the chance to demonstrate their skills in an exam. For that reason, where possible we have made decisions that work in students’ favour and overall results will be more lenient.
Of course, we can never know for sure how an individual student might have performed in their exams. Universities and colleges understand this, and many have committed to showing flexibility in their admissions decisions. Overall we believe these results will be as fair as they possibly can be in the absence of exams.
Appeals and complaints
The vast majority of students are going to receive grades that are fair and that will enable them to progress to their next stage. However we know there are some students and families who may want to appeal their grade. If this is the case, you should speak to your child’s school or college. Schools or colleges have to be the ones that submit appeals, and will do so if they believe there has been an error or that the moderation process has not produced a reliable result.
We have published a guide on our website to help students and their families understand how appeals will operate this summer. This includes information on complaints about potential bias or discrimination. We believe such complaints will be rare, but they will need to be taken very seriously.
For more information on the next steps after students have received their results, contact the Exam Results Helpline on 0800 100 900. You can also contact Ofqual directly on 0300 303 3344, or by email at email@example.com.
To all students receiving their results, whatever their next step, we wish them well. They have experienced a unique disruption to their lives. Their grades awarded over the next two weeks will enable as many as possible to move on in their lives with a sense of pride in their hard work and achievements.