Students could receive their A-level and GCSE results by the start of July under proposals unveiled by England’s exams regulator.
Ofqual has launched a two-week consultation on the options for exam alternatives in England after this summer’s A-level, AS and GCSE exams were cancelled due to the pandemic.
The watchdog is considering how students will be awarded fair grades amid the disruption and it is proposing that students continue with their education during this academic year despite cancelled exams and school closures.
Students would be assessed by their teachers during a period from May into early June and school staff would submit their grades to the exam boards by mid-June under the regulator’s plans.
Normally students receive their results in mid to late August, but the regulator has suggested results could be issued to students at the start of July, once quality assurance has been completed.
— Ofqual (@ofqual) January 15, 2021
Allowing all students to appeal over their grades is one of the proposals being considered by Ofqual.
The watchdog is proposing that a student’s grade “will be based on their teachers’ assessment of the standard at which the student is performing”.
The proposals come after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson suggested that students could be asked to sit externally-set papers or tasks to help teachers with their assessments.
On Wednesday, Mr Williamson said teachers should make a judgment on a student’s grade “as late as possible” to maximise teaching time and ensure students remain motivated.
Ofqual said it is proposing that exam boards should make a set of papers available – which teachers can use with students as part of their assessment.
The consultation seeks views on what form they should take, when they should be made available, and whether their use should be mandated.
Papers used in the final assessment could be completed in a student’s home “if the pandemic makes it essential”, it says, but Ofqual is hopeful that students’ performance will be able to be assessed within schools or colleges.
Exam boards should provide guidance and training “to help teachers make objective decisions”, the consultation says.
Last summer, thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm, before Ofqual announced a U-turn allowing them to use teachers’ predictions.
The proportion of A-level and GCSE entries in England awarded top grades surged to a record high after the U-turn meant results could be based on teachers’ estimated grades.
The watchdog has said it is not proposing to ask teachers what grade a student might have received if they had been able to take their exams – which is what teachers were asked in 2020.
“The disruption to the 2021 cohort’s education would make it more difficult for teachers to make such a judgement this year,” the consultation says.
Mr Williamson said: “These proposals should give young people confidence that despite exams being cancelled, they will still receive a grade that reflects their ability.
“This is quite rightly an issue of great public interest and concern and it’s important that those working in education alongside students, parents and employers are able to have their say.”
Ofqual’s interim chief regulator Simon Lebus said: “We know that everyone wants clarity on the way ahead quickly. Above all, we need to support students to carry on with their education for the remainder of the academic year.
“Students and learners will carry with them for the rest of their lives the grades they are given on the basis of these arrangements, so we must make sure they are as fair as they can be in these difficult circumstances.”