Students sitting autumn exams will have 'generosity' of summer results, says Ofqual

Pupils sitting GCSE and A-level exams this autumn will be given the same generosity in their grades as those who did so in the summer.

Students in England who were unhappy with their grades this year, or who were unable to receive a grade due to the pandemic, have been given the chance to sit A-level exams in October and GCSE exams in November.

Now exams regulator Ofqual has said it is “working with exam boards to carry forward the generosity from summer 2020 grades”, the majority of which were based on grades submitted by schools or colleges.

It comes after the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students this summer, when exams were cancelled amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Students sitting exams this autumn will be given the same generosity in grades as those who did so in the summer

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Thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by an algorithm which was claimed to unfairly punish those from less well-off areas, before Ofqual announced a U-turn, allowing them to use teachers’ predictions.

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GCSEs and A-levels in 2021 delayed due to coronavirus disruptions

Ofqual said exam boards will “rely much more heavily on the judgment of their expert senior examiners” due to lower entry numbers – A-level entries are just over 20,000 for the autumn series, compared with more than 700,000 entries in summer.

It added: “Examiners will be guided by proxy grade boundaries. Exam boards will generate these by looking at how far the 2019 grade boundaries for each specification would have to move to achieve the proportion of students at the key grades we saw for each of those specifications in summer 2020.

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“Archive student work, as well as several other sources of evidence about where grade boundaries should be set, will also be considered.”

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “This approach avoids disadvantage to students taking the autumn series compared to those awarded grades in the summer and recognises that this year has to be viewed as an exceptional response to the Covid emergency.

“However, it does raise questions over how grade boundaries will be set next summer. Our view is that it would be unfair to go back to the grade distribution of 2019 given the huge impact of Covid on the current cohort of students and we have proposed an additional allowance on the 2019 grade boundaries for exams in 2021.”

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