Government announcements regarding exams in 2020

On 18 March 2020 the Department for Education (DfE) made the unprecedented announcement to cancel all GCSE and A level exams scheduled for the summer of 2020. On 20 March DfE released further information on arrangements for the cancelled exams, as well as a useful set of FAQs

Update 15/04/2020: Ofqual has now announced further details on how GCSEs, AS and A levels will be awarded in summer 2020. Exam boards will be contacting exam centres after Easter asking them to submit specific information for each candidate “by a deadline that will be no earlier than 29 May 2020.” Ofqual has also published a message to students explaining the process.

We have, however, continued to receive many questions from students and parents about how grades will be awarded and what this means for moving onto sixth form, college or university. We’ve set out some details below on our understanding of the key points for exams in 2020 and tried to answer the most pressing questions. 

How will GCSE and A level grades be awarded this year?

The DfE has confirmed that the exam regulator (Ofqual) and the exam boards will now work with teachers to award grades to GCSE and A level students. The goal is to do this as fairly as possible. There are two key things to be aware of: 

  1. Ofqual will work out a reasonable process for providing each student with a calculated grade “which reflects their performance as fairly as possible”. They will “work with exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied for all students”. Exam boards will ask teachers “to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead”. 
  2. To do this, “teachers will take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment”. Exam boards will use teachers’ judgements in combination with other data “including prior attainment” to “produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in”. 

These calculated grades should be produced for every student by the end of July. These grades “will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years”. 

What if I’m not happy with the grade I’m awarded? 

The DfE has confirmed that there will be an appeals process for students who do not feel their grade has been awarded correctly. If students do not think that “the correct process has been followed in their case they will be able to appeal on that basis”. 

Can I take my exams when schools and colleges reopen? 

Yes, all students will have the option to take their exams at “the earliest reasonable opportunity, once schools reopen again”. You can also sit the exams next year in the summer of 2021 if you feel that option is best for you. 

Can I still move on to sixth form or university next year?  

Yes,“the calculated grades awarded will be formal grades, with the same status as grades awarded in any other year”. The government has said its priority is to ensure that students who were due to take exams this year are not adversely affected when “moving onto the next stage of their lives”. 

Those representing universities have already confirmed that they “expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education”. 

Advice for students

Obviously these are still very uncertain times for students and we’ll keep you updated as more information is released. Although schools are unlikely to reopen again in the summer term, most schools are adapting to working and teaching online. 

We are hearing more and more reports of GCSE and A level students stopping their studies following the exam cancellations. It is, however, really important to ensure that you continue your learning and study. You should continue to work on your subjects. Complete all work set by your school and do additional learning to ensure that you complete your GCSE or A level course. There are a few crucial reasons for completing your courses: 

  1. some schools may use work completed over the coming weeks as evidence to inform teachers’ judgements on exam grades; 
  2. you will want to have clear evidence in place if you do decide to make an appeal against your calculated grade; 
  3. you should ensure you are ready and have the required learning to do well on your new courses from September; and 
  4. if you decide to take your exams next year (either early in the academic year or in summer 2021), then work put in now will be vital to your success. 

Contact us directly if you have any specific questions on the exams and if you would like any support in completing your course or getting ready for exams next year.  

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