News | Published August 13 2020

Williamson announces “triple lock” on A-Level and GCSE exam results

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has announced that the final A-Level and GCSE results awarded to students in England will not be lower than mock exam scores.

The final results will now be based on the highest out of a pupil’s predicted grades, mock exams, and an optional written exam taken in the autumn.

It means that should pupils receive an estimated grade lower than their mock exam score, they will be able to appeal through their school, with exam regulator Ofqual overseeing the terms under which appeals will be upheld.

Williamson said: "Every young person waiting for their results wants to know they have been treated fairly.

"By ensuring students have the safety net of their mock results, as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams, we are creating a triple lock process to ensure they can have the confidence to take the next step forward in work or education".

Schools minister for England, Nick Gibb, told the BBC that allowing pupils to appeal on the grounds of a higher mock result would provide “an extra safety net” for affected pupils.

The change, announced on the eve of A-Level results day, was branded “panicked and chaotic” by head teachers, with ASCL head teachers’ union chief Geoff Barton concerned that mock exams were an insufficient means of determining final A-Level and GCSE grades.

Barton said: “The government doesn’t appear to understand how mock exams work. They aren’t a set of exams which all conform to the same standards. The clue is in the name ‘mock’.”

The move follows controversy in Scotland, after the Scottish government changed tack on its basis for awarding grades by switching to teachers’ predicted grades.

76,000 pupils in Scotland have now had their results upgraded after they had been lowered by a moderating system which linked individual pupils’ results to the past performances of the schools they come from.

The initial move in Scotland had been labelled a “postcode lottery” and discriminatory to people in deprived areas by critics, who said that high-achieving pupils in low-performing schools were being left short-changed. The Scottish government has since issued an apology.

However, Ofqual has suggested that using teachers’ predicted grades in England could unfairly inflate results, with 38 per cent of entries in line to return A* or A grades, a significant jump from the previous record of 27 per cent.

The Welsh government has informed A-Level students that almost half of their final mark will be based on AS-Levels completed in the previous academic year, calling it a “fair” approach.

However, the National Education Union’s Mary Bousted raised concern that the different methods of awarding final grades across the UK meant that students applying for the same university places would be presenting results based on “completely different criteria and wildly different pass rates”.

The changes have thrown the method for deciding university places into doubt. Universities have been told that places for students who miss their entry requirements must be kept open until the outcome of an appeal is decided, should the school lodge an appeal on the pupil's behalf. 

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Authored by

Alexander Bridge-Wilkinson
Junior Editor
August 13 2020

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