Ex­ams in chaos af­ter Ofqual about-turn on grade guid­ance

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front Page - By Camilla Turner ED­U­CA­TION EDITOR

A-LEVEL stu­dents face fur­ther un­cer­tainty over their exam re­sults af­ter the reg­u­la­tor Ofqual per­formed a re­mark­able about-turn last night, with­draw­ing the guid­ance it pub­lished only hours be­fore on how to ap­peal grades.

Ofqual said it was “re­view­ing” guid­ance it pub­lished ear­lier yes­ter­day on how to ap­peal A-level and GCSE grades us­ing mock exam re­sults.

The reg­u­la­tor pre­vi­ously said grades from mock ex­ams and course­work could be used to chal­lenge re­sults down­graded un­der Ofqual’s stan­dard­i­s­a­tion process.

But last night a spokesman said: “Ear­lier to­day we pub­lished in­for­ma­tion about mock exam re­sults in ap­peals. This pol­icy is be­ing re­viewed by the Ofqual board and fur­ther in­for­ma­tion will be pub­lished in due course.”

Ear­lier this week, it emerged that close to 40 per cent of A-level re­sults had been down­graded by an al­go­rithm that Ofqual had de­signed to stan­dard­ise exam re­sults, with pre­dic­tions that GCSE re­sults day on Thurs­day will prompt an even big­ger fall­out.

The al­go­rithm, which fac­tored in var­i­ous data sets, such as the school’s his­toric per­for­mance as well as pupils’ prior at­tain­ment, was drawn up by Ofqual af­ter ex­am­i­na­tions were can­celled due to the coron­avirus out­break.

Gavin Wil­liamson, the Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary, an­nounced late last week that pupils could use their mock exam out­comes as a ba­sis for an ap­peal.

How­ever, many see mock exam re­sults as a poorer in­di­ca­tor of stu­dent at­tain­ment than a teacher’s pre­dicted grade or CAG – cen­tre-as­sessed grade – ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment pub­lished by Ofqual yes­ter­day.

This is be­cause mock ex­ams of­ten do not nec­es­sar­ily cover the whole syl­labus and may only test pupils’ knowl­edge on cer­tain top­ics.

For this rea­son, if the teach­ers’ pre­dicted grade is lower than the mock exam grade, then the for­mer should be

used, the reg­u­la­tor said. Dr Tony Bres­lin, a for­mer chief ex­am­iner, said of the guid­ance: “What they have worked out, to be blunt, is that the sug­ges­tion of us­ing mocks to ap­peal was so ill thought-out that if some­thing is go­ing to be used from the cen­tre then surely it is smarter to use a cen­tre-as­sessed grade that has been ar­rived at af­ter an in­cred­i­bly rig­or­ous process, which Ofqual set the rules for.

“They never set the rules for mocks. They sim­ply don’t know what they are buy­ing. What this an­nounce­ment con­firms is that Ofqual thinks the cen­tre­assessed grades, that they didn’t want to go with, are in fact more re­li­able than the mock ex­ams, that they are be­ing told to go with.”

Ge­off Bar­ton, general sec­re­tary of the As­so­ci­a­tion of School and Col­lege Lead­ers, said ex­tra grounds for ap­peals were “clearly a face-sav­ing ex­er­cise”.

Mr Wil­liamson moved to quell ris­ing anger about re­sults, an­nounc­ing on Fri­day that all ap­peals would be free and he would set up a task force, headed by Nick Gibb, the schools min­is­ter, to over­see the ap­peals process.

An Ofqual spokesman said of the eal­r­lier guid­ance: “The ar­range­ments in place are the fairest pos­si­ble in the ab­sence of ex­ams.

“How­ever, any process for calculatin­g grades will in­evitably pro­duce some re­sults which need to be queried.”

They said mock ex­ams “do not nor­mally cover the full range of con­tent” and “cen­tre-as­sess­ment grades took into ac­count stu­dent per­for­mance across the whole course. In cir­cum­stances where the cen­tre-as­sess­ment grade was lower than the mock grade, the stu­dent will re­ceive the cen­tre as­sess­ment grade”.

Kate Green, the shadow ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary, said: “Gavin Wil­liamson has left many dev­as­tated by un­fair exam re­sults. Now his com­mit­ment for an­other chance is rapidly un­rav­el­ling. Hav­ing promised stu­dents will be able to use a valid mock re­sult, the re­al­ity is that many will not re­ceive these grades.

“The lat­est chaos is the in­evitable con­se­quence of this Gov­ern­ment’s sham­bolic ap­proach to ex­ams.”

A Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion spokesman said ear­lier in the day: “We are pleased Ofqual has set out how it will im­ple­ment the triple-lock pol­icy. A stu­dent will now be able to ap­peal on the ba­sis of their mock mark.

“In its role as reg­u­la­tor, how­ever, Ofqual has de­ter­mined that in the rare cir­cum­stances where the cen­tre-as­sessed grade is lower than the mock, it would be more ap­pro­pri­ate for the stu­dent to in­stead re­ceive the cen­tre-as­sessed grade.”

‘Hav­ing promised stu­dents will be able to use a valid mock re­sult, the re­al­ity is that many will not’

Gavin Wil­liamson an­nounced late last week that mock exam re­sults could be used in ap­peals

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