GCSE results have been released today and what a difference a week makes! Last week, A-level students were angered and distressed by the grades being awarded through an algorithm due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government then decided, earlier this week, that the algorithm would not apply to the award of the grades, and that instead the teacher/centre assessed grades would be used. The same approach would also apply to GCSE results.
GCSE result were released this morning and it has been a record-breaking year with a significant increase in top grades being achieved by students. Pass rates have increased across all subjects and there has been a 40% increase in the award of grade 9 being achieved.
Since the decision reversal on how grades are awarded, the number of A-level students receiving an A grade or higher has increased to a record high for England. The overall pass rate has also increased for A-levels.
BTEC students, however, have been left waiting for their results as Pearson, an exam board has asked for more time to recalculate grades due to the last-minute change on how grades are awarded this week. Pearson have confirmed they will be using centre assessed grades to ensure that no student is disadvantaged. Students have been told they will receive their results as soon as possible.
GCSE students who do not get the grades they were expecting cannot appeal against their grades themselves. Pupils can ask their schools to request a review or make an appeal to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual). If they are disappointed with the decision after a review, they can also then appeal to Ofqual within 15 days of receiving the result of the review. Schools can lodge appeals on behalf of students if they can show that grades are lower than expected because the school has changed in some way. Students can also retake the exams in autumn, if they are unhappy with their grades.
It is still unclear how long the appeals process might take with Ofqual working “urgently” to “operationalise” the Government’s plan. There is also no clear indication as to how many students will appeal their grades. However, the amount of appeals will significantly reduce with the centre assessed grades now being used.
The focus will now shift to the impact on universities and colleges who will be considering their capacities to take in students, with many already looking at alternative arrangements. Durham University has promised a bursary and guarantee of accommodation for everyone who defers until 2021. Similar arrangements may now be offered by other universities and college to attempt to ensure that students are not disadvantaged.
Gurvinder Samra, education law specialist said: “The focus is now very much on teachers accurately assessing their students’ capabilities. The grade awarding process has gone from a systematic, computerised approach to a very human approach.”
However, the algorithm lent itself to significant questions of how fairly students were treated as there appeared to be an emphasis on the school’s previous history of grades, which was a far too generalised approach. On the other hand, the teacher assessed grades also raise questions on how they have arrived at their decisions and what factors were applied. There is now a greater reliance on teachers being best placed to award final A-level and GCSE grades.
In the current imperfect situation, this may be the best approach to take, however, decisions made by teachers now will have an impact on students’ future college and university placements going forward, but also, on the future cohort student groups that directly follow them in subsequent years. Decisions taken by teachers now will seemingly have far reaching effects in the coming years.