Ben HaywardAugust 11th
2020

Students in England will now be allowed to use their mock exam results if they are unhappy with their A-level grades following a last-minute change of government policy.  

The intervention comes as this year’s A-level results, based on teacher predictions then adjusted by algorithm, are due to be published tomorrow (August 13th).

The dramatic move comes after the Scottish government was forced to reinstate 124,000 downgraded results after widespread dissatisfaction across the board, reports the Guardian.

As a result of there backlash Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced on Tuesday evening that pupils would be able to substitute the grades they received in mock exams held by their schools as long as they were held under exam conditions and could be ‘validated’ by the school.

Announcing the change, Williamson said: “Every young person waiting for their results wants to know they’ve been treated fairly. 

“By ensuring students have the safety net of their mock results, as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams, we are creating a triple lock process to ensure that they can have the confidence to take the next steps forward in work or education.

“No one wanted to cancel exams - they are the best and fairest form of assessment, but the disruption caused by Covid-19 meant they were not possible. This triple lock system [accept results, use mock exams or undertake an exam resit] will help make sure that we award the fairest results possible, reassure our young people and help them to get on with the next stage of their lives.”

However, concerns have immediately been raised that the move will fail to help students with weak mock exam results, and will highlight the large discrepancies in the way different schools conduct mock exams.

It is also likely to anger substantial numbers of headteachers who opted to cancel the mock exams scheduled for March due to the coronavirus lockdown.

General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, said: “The idea of introducing at the 11th hour a system in which mock exam results trump calculated grades beggars belief. 

“If the government wanted to change the system, it should have spent at least a few days discussing the options rather than rushing out a panicked and chaotic response.”

Students will still be able to sit exams in autumn if they are unhappy with their mock exam grades, or the results awarded by exam boards, with all three grades holding the same value with universities, colleges and employers, according to the Department for Education.

Grades in England have been standardised on the basis of an algorithm which relies partly on a school’s recent exam history, leading to fears it will unfairly penalise high-performing pupils at schools with a record of porter performance.  

The UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: “Allowing algorithms to downgrade marks and hold students back was wrong. Many students’ life chances could still be damaged because of a clearly faulty system.”

The NUS president, Larissa Kennedy, said: “This temporary measure must be taken to avoid a situation in which thousands of students do not receive the grades they deserve because of where they live.”

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