A level and GCSE grades will now be based on teacher predictions after a massive government U-turn

By Sarah Wilson
Monday, 17th August 2020, 4:31 pm
Updated Monday, 17th August 2020, 4:31 pm
Thousands of students in England have had their A level grades downgraded (Photo: Shutterstock)
Thousands of students in England have had their A level grades downgraded (Photo: Shutterstock)

The government has confirmed that all A level and GCSE grades in England will now be based on teacher predictions, which is a U-turn on previous policy.

Teachers, students and politicians have been in uproar over the past few days, after a moderating algorithm saw almost 40 per cent of students' grades downgraded.

Disadvantaged students were among the worst-affected by the algorithm, which used criteria such as a school's previous exam performance to moderate the predicted grades given by teachers.

The fiasco led to widespread anger and some protests, with ministers now announcing that they will now scrap the model in favour of centre-assessed grades, which were submitted by schools earlier this year.

Algorithm scrapped

The U-turn comes shortly after a similar announcement in Wales, where GCSE and A level grades will also be reverted to teacher's predictions. Northern Ireland also announced that it would be doing the same for GCSE results.

Exam regulator Ofqual initially insisted that the model used to determine grades was a fair way to ensure that results were standardised in line with previous years.

However, after hundreds of stories of students missing out on grades - and university places, the model has been scrapped.

The regulator has now confirmed that centre-assessed grades (CAG) will be awarded to A level, AS level and GCSE students. Where a moderated grade is higher than a CAG, students may keep that grade.

'Caused real anguish and damaged public confidence'

Roger Taylor, Ofqual’s chair, admitted that the initial system had damaged public confidence and caused distress to many, apologising to those who were adversely affected.

He said, “We understand this has been a distressing time for students, who were awarded exam results last week for exams they never took. The pandemic has created circumstances no one could have ever imagined or wished for. We want to now take steps to remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people as possible - and to free up heads and teachers to work towards the important task of getting all schools open in two weeks.

“After reflection, we have decided that the best way to do this is to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted. The switch to centre assessment grades will apply to both AS and A levels and to the GCSE results which students will receive later this week.

“There was no easy solution to the problem of awarding exam results when no exams have taken place. Ofqual was asked by the Secretary of State to develop a system for awarding calculated grades, which maintained standards and ensured that grades were awarded broadly in line with previous years. Our goal has always been to protect the trust that the public rightly has in educational qualifications.

“But we recognise that while the approach we adopted attempted to achieve these goals we also appreciate that it has also caused real anguish and damaged public confidence. Expecting schools to submit appeals where grades were incorrect placed a burden on teachers when they need to be preparing for the new term and has created uncertainty and anxiety for students. For all of that, we are extremely sorry.

“The path forward we now plan to implement will provide urgent clarity. We are already working with the Department for Education, universities and everyone else affected by this issue.”