Ministers urged to waive appeal fees for pupils with downgraded results

All fees for A-level appeals should be waived in response to thousands of pupils having their results downgraded, according to Labour.

It comes as pupils across England, Northern Ireland and Wales received their results after this year’s summer exams were cancelled because of Covid-19.

England’s exams watchdog Ofqual has indicated that nearly two in five (39.1%) pupils in the country saw their A-level grades downgraded from their teachers’ estimates.

Sir Keir Starmer with students
Sir Keir Starmer with students

The Welsh Government has already announced that there will be no fees for appeals there, but the Department for Education (DfE) said appeal fees are a matter for individual exam boards in England, adding that there is no charge if an appeal is upheld.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party would allow individuals rather than schools to mount grade appeals and would waive any fee.

He said: “Of course there are always those who are pleased and those who are not, but that reflects an individual’s application in an exam on the day.

“Of course that can be upsetting if you haven’t got the grades you wanted after having sat an exam.

“Here, what we have got is young people being told the system has told you that you are not worthy of that grade. That’s the injustice that is felt very deeply.”

A-level adjustments
A-level adjustments

Sir Keir also urged the Government to consider the sort of grading U-turn made by the Scottish Government this week.

On Tuesday, Scotland’s Education Secretary John Swinney confirmed that teacher estimates for grades would be reinstated.

It prompted calls from Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Liberal Democrats for the SNP minister to resign.

Sir Keir said: “The Government needs to reset, rethink and it should not rule anything else out, including the sort of U-turn that was forced on the Scottish Government last week, where they had to go back to the assessment.

“Something has to be done to put right this injustice.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson earlier ruled out following the Scottish Government in reversing position.

He told Sky News: “When we’ve consulted widely, when Ofqual consulted widely (on) the whole system of awarding, this is the message that we got from everyone – this is the right approach to go forward.

“You’ve got to have a system that has checks and balances, that looks at the whole performance and making sure you maintain standards within the exam system, to ensure those results carry credibility.”