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A-level farce goes on as Ofqual SUSPENDS criteria hours after saying appeals could be based on mocks

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The exams regulator for England has dramatically suspended its criteria for students hoping to challenge their A-level grades on the basis of their results in mock exams.

In a brief statement, Ofqual said the policy was ‘being reviewed’ by its board and that further information would be released ‘in due course’.

No reason for the decision was immediately available, sparking confusion for parents across the country.

The move comes just hours after the body published its criteria for mock exam results to be considered as the basis of an appeal.

It threatened to plunge the A-level process into further disarray following an outcry from students after almost 40% of predicted grades were downgraded by the regulator’s ‘moderation’ algorithm.

In a statement late on Saturday, an Ofqual spokesman said: ‘Earlier today we published information about mock exam results in appeals.

‘This policy is being reviewed by the Ofqual Board and further information will be published in due course.’ 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, pictured, has faced calls to resign over results fiasco

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, pictured, has faced calls to resign over results fiasco

Students wearing face masks take part in a protest in Westminster in London over the government's handling of A-level results, university provision and employment prospects

Students wearing face masks take part in a protest in Westminster in London over the government’s handling of A-level results, university provision and employment prospects

Pictured: Students and parents hold a placards on Whitehall outside Downing Street in London on Friday, after nearly 40 per cent of results were downgraded by the computer model deployed when exams had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis, affecting disadvantaged areas most

Pictured: Students and parents hold a placards on Whitehall outside Downing Street in London on Friday, after nearly 40 per cent of results were downgraded by the computer model deployed when exams had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis, affecting disadvantaged areas most

Students and teachers protest outside Downing against the downgrading of A-level results

Students and teachers protest outside Downing against the downgrading of A-level results

Exams regulator Ofqual had earlier revealed details on how students can appeal against their A-level results using grades from mock tests. 

Ofqual said it would allow non-exam assessment marks to be used to ‘make sure this opportunity is available to a wide range of students, including those who had not taken a written mock exam before schools and colleges closed’.

It also confirmed no grades would be lowered as a result of an appeal however the initial set of criteria has now been suspended.

The suspension of their most recent policy has been criticised as causing more confusion amid the results chaos that has resulted.

Stalwart Labour MP Yvette Cooper has said: ‘Even more unbelievable chaos & incompetence.

‘Young people’s futures are being screwed up by this & Govt doesn’t seem to have a clue what it’s doing.’

Prior to the suspension, Shadow education secretary Kate Green said the appeals process was ‘simply not good enough’ for students.

She said: ‘Having promised that students will be able to use a valid mock result, the reality is that many will not receive these grades even if they represent a student’s best result.

‘The latest chaos is the inevitable consequence of this Government’s shambolic approach to exams, which saw solutions dreamt up on the back of a cigarette packet and announced barely a day before young people received their results.

‘This is simply not good enough for young people and their families.’

The regulator said mock grades would be valid if they came from appropriately supervised assessments where there was ‘no possibility of correction’, provided the assessment was produced by a relevant exam board or developed by a teacher in line with a previous exam.

Mock grades must also have been marked in line with an exam board’s regular standards and assessments must have been completed and graded by March 20 2020.

Ofqual had earlier confirmed appeals using mock results could begin from Monday and would apply for GCSE, AS and A-level students as well as those taking Extended Project Qualifications and Advanced Extension Award in maths.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, criticised the process, branding it ‘surreal and bureaucratic’.

He said: ‘This is clearly a face-saving exercise by a Government which has said that it won’t do a U-turn on its pledge that moderated grades will stand, come what may.

‘Instead, it is attempting to remedy the grading fiasco through an appeals process so surreal and bureaucratic that it would be better off at this point doing that U-turn and allowing original teacher-assessed grades, where they are higher, to replace moderated grades.

‘That would be a better approach than this appeals system as it would mean students would get revised A-level grades immediately on the basis of the teacher assessments already conducted, which draw on the very evidence that is now proposed as part of the appeals process.’

He added: ‘We don’t blame Ofqual for the bizarre nature of the appeals criteria. The regulator has been given a hospital pass by a Government that is in disarray.

‘It is time for ministers to stop the chaos and fall back on teacher-assessed grades rather than prolong this nightmare.’

The news comes as the Welsh government has also confirmed students in Wales will be able to appeal against their A-level grades if they are lower than their teachers’ predictions.

There has been an outcry in Wales after 42% of all A-level grades were lowered during the moderation process.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said appeals would be allowed if ‘there is evidence’ pupils should have received higher grades.

Data revealed that the marks of poorer pupils in England were more likely to be downgraded by the algorithm

Data revealed that the marks of poorer pupils in England were more likely to be downgraded by the algorithm

A Level appeal questions answered based on initial Ofqual criteria

– Who can appeal?

The Government has confirmed appeals using mock results will be open to GCSE, AS and A-level students as well as those taking Extended Project Qualifications and the Advanced Extension Award in maths.

Ofqual said this route of appeal is open to any student with a higher mock grade than their calculated one.

– When can they appeal?

Exam boards have confirmed they will be ready to process these appeals from Monday and students are asked to contact their school or college.

– What work can be used?

In the details released by Ofqual on Saturday, the regulator said that past assessments from the relevant exam board can be used, such as past papers.

Mock exams or assessments created by teachers can also be used as long as they are similar to past exams in the style and content covered.

Marked coursework can also be used if students did not take a written mock exam before their school or college closed, but it must have been completed in the conditions set by the relevant exam board.

It can also be used in addition to mock exam results.

– What conditions are required?

Mock assessments used for an appeal must have been supervised, previously unseen and taken in conditions that ensure the work is the student’s own.

This includes invigilation, not having the possibility of corrections or revisions, and students not having access to study materials banned in exams.

The mocks also need to have been taken under timed conditions that match up to the time provided in normal exams, with adjustments allowed for students eligible for extra time.

It must have been completed within the programme of study and by March 20, when most schools and colleges were closed.

– What must the mock assessment cover?

Mock assessments used for the appeal must have ‘substantial coverage’ of the normally-assessed curriculum, equivalent to an exam paper or one non-examination assessed task.

– What about the centre assessment grades?

Schools and colleges were told to submit the grades they thought each student would have received if they had sat the papers, alongside a rank order of students.

Ofqual said on Saturday the centre assessment grades took the student’s performance over the whole course into account, whereas mock assessments do not normally cover the full range of content.

This means if a student’s mock result is higher than the centre assessment grade, they will receive the lower grade.

The regulator added that no grades will go down as a result of an appeal.

– What about marking?

The mocks must have been marked using a marking scheme provided by the relevant exam board, or one that matches up to the exam board’s marking scheme.

The grade given as a result of the mock must be in line with the relevant exam board’s standard.

This can include using the grade boundaries from the exam board when a past paper has been used.

– What do schools need to do?

Schools and colleges need to be able to provide evidence for the entire subject cohort if required.

Ofqual said this includes proof of the marks given, evidence marking was carried out by the deadline as well as the exam paper and mark scheme used.

The student’s written paper does not need to have been kept.

The Government previously confirmed schools in England will be able to appeal against A-level and GCSE grades free of charge.

State-funded schools and colleges will also be able to claim back the cost of unsuccessful appeals as well as fees for autumn exams, the Department for Education said.

 

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Students, teachers and parents hold placards and wear face masks as they protest against downgraded A level results due to Covid-19

Students, teachers and parents hold placards and wear face masks as they protest against downgraded A level results due to Covid-19

Before the results were published on Thursday, Ms Williams announced that final grades would not be lower than pupils’ earlier AS results.

‘Earlier this week I directed Qualifications Wales to broaden the grounds for appeal for A-levels, AS, Skills Challenge Certificate and GCSEs,’ she said.

‘Today, they have now confirmed what this means for students.

‘I accept that learners wanted and needed more clarity, and I believe this achieves that.

‘Qualification Wales and the WJEC will share the full details, but appeals can now be made where there is evidence of internal assessments that has been judged by the school or college to be at a higher grade than the grade they have been awarded.

‘There is a guarantee that no-one will receive a lower grade after appeal and all appeals are free.’

Regulator Qualifications Wales said schools would be able to appeal to exam board WJEC if they:

– they used the wrong data when calculating a grade

– the calculated grades generated by the statistical standardisation model were incorrectly allocated or communicated

– there was some other procedural failing on the part of WJEC

– there is evidence of internal assessment that has been judged by the school or college to be at a higher grade than the calculated grade awarded.

The regulator said that no grades would be lowered as a result of an appeal and would either go up or stay the same.

The moderation system overseen by Qualifications Wales and WJEC has been criticised by pupils, teachers, unions and opposition politicians.

This year’s exams were cancelled across the UK because of the coronavirus lockdown and there are fears the replacement grading system will create a postcode lottery.

Students burn their A-Level results at the London Dungeon as students find out whether they have got a university place

Students burn their A-Level results at the London Dungeon as students find out whether they have got a university place

Students wearing face masks take part in a protest over the government's handling of results

Students wearing face masks take part in a protest over the government’s handling of results

A record 29.9% of students recorded an A or A* grades, which is less than the 40.4% who were estimated to receive top grades by teachers.

The Joint Council for Qualifications said the grades submitted by schools and colleges were ‘optimistic and, without standardisation, would have produced atypically high outcomes’.

Adam Price, Plaid Cymru leader, said: ‘Pupils who were awarded lesser grades than the teacher assessments in A-level and AS exams should be upgraded to the teacher assessment grades.

‘If this approach is being advocated by the UK Labour leader in England, why is the Labour First Minister in Wales so stubbornly against?’

‘Further, this should be used as the mechanism for awarding GCSE results and this should be communicated to learners today for peace of mind.’

The Senedd’s children, young people and education committee will be recalled on Tuesday and has invited the Welsh Government, Qualification Wales and WJEC to provide information and answer questions.

Committee chair Lynne Neagle said: ‘Given the significant concerns and complexities surrounding the awarding of exam results this year we will be meeting urgently to seek clarity for those who’ve been through this challenging process in unprecedented times.’

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