Exams in chaos after Ofqual about-turn on grade guidance
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