Students and parents condemn ‘panic’ changes to A-level results system

Students and parents have condemned “panic” changes to the way A-level results in England are decided, saying they have increased stress and reduced fairness.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced late on Tuesday that students will be able to use their results in mock tests to appeal if they are unhappy with the grades they are given – and will also be able to sit exams in the autumn.

Suzanne Whitton, whose 18-year-old daughter Holly is awaiting A-level results, said the move appeared to be a panicked response following the backlash to Scotland’s downgrading of pupils’ results – which resulted in an apology and U-turn.

“This feels very much like a knee-jerk panic reaction to me, by a government who has watched Scotland’s fiasco unfurl,” the parent from Wokingham in Berkshire told the PA news agency.

“I don’t know why they have left it so late to make this decision when it would have put so many students’ minds at rest if it had been declared before.

“And what about those students who didn’t work hard for mocks and were planning to cram in the last few months to increase their final grade?”

On students now being able to sit exams in the autumn if unhappy with their results, she added: “A-level students didn’t even finish the syllabus so how can anyone be expected to take an exam in six weeks’ time?

“The whole thing has not been well thought through and today’s news is the icing on the cake.”

Charlie Heron, from Shenfield High School, Essex, said he is “not confident” the changes will help him and feels the autumn exams, scheduled for the start of October, come too soon.

“A lot of us in our mocks didn’t put in the maximum effort because we had Ucas and university applications to do … in the end, my mock grades weren’t the best,” the 18-year-old told PA.

“The chance to resit is great, however I think this is too soon and a lot of us haven’t received any support or been contacted by our schools during this time.

“I haven’t opened any of my books and I didn’t even finish my A-level courses, so to sit an exam wouldn’t really benefit me in any way.”

Kejti Ismail, from Leicester, studies biology, chemistry and mathematics and said she felt the decision has piled on stress in an already traumatic year.

“Not only have we been off school for around five months, but all the pupils have gone through so much stress at home with the virus and the pandemic,” the 18-year-old said.

“Our results have actually been the last thing on our mind and studying for them because we’re too stressed to even think.”

She added: “No-one prepares for mocks as much as we prepare for the real exams … I just think it’s so unfair.”

Cheyenne Williams, an 18-year-old from Barnhill Community High School in north west London, said: “I find all of these last-minute changes to be unprofessional and now I feel even more confused and stressed.”

She also said she feared some students may have cheated during their mock exams.

“Personally, my school takes mocks really seriously as we take them in an exam hall with invigilator … however, I do think that other students could still find ways to cheat,” she added.

“For example, if they find the mock paper online beforehand or if their school doesn’t supervise mocks as harshly.”