What does it mean for GCSE and A-level students that exams have been cancelled?

Students will not be sitting GCSEs or A-levels at the end of this academic year after exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department for Education has said pupils in England will instead be awarded grades based on teacher assessments.

– What is the new approach?

Students will receive a calculated grade. This will be reached taking into account a number of factors. Teachers will be asked to give their judgment about the grade they think the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.

They will consider evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment, and exam boards will then combine that information with other data including previous attainment, to come up with the calculated grade.

– Why was this approach taken?

The decision was made to ensure social distancing and to give educational institutions certainty so they can “focus on supporting vulnerable children and the children of key workers”, the department said.

– When will students have their grades?

The department is aiming for all students to have their grades by the end of July. A-level and GCSE grades are usually published mid-August.

– What if they are not happy with their grades?

Students will be able to appeal if they do not believe the correct process has been followed in their case, the department said.

They will also have the option to sit an exam early in the next academic year – which starts in September – if they want to.

Pupils can also choose to sit their exams in summer 2021.

– How have teaching unions reacted?

The National Education Union and Association of School and College Leaders largely welcomed the new guidance, but said they were awaiting more detail on how exactly it would work on a practical basis.

England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, has said work is under way, with exam boards and teachers’ representatives to develop the proposals, and more information will be provided in the coming days.

– And what about universities?

The department says the calculated grades will be formal grades “with the same status as grades awarded in any other year”.

The heads of the Russell Group, GuildHE, MillionPlus and University Alliance issued a joint statement saying universities would do all they could to support students.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said the guidance “should offer reassurance for students during what is an exceptionally challenging time”, and called for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to be considered in particular as the new approach is taken.

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