England makes U-turn on A-level results 24 hours before release

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

A-level and GCSE students in England have been promised that their final results will be no lower than their mock exams.

It follows Scotland's decision to switch to teachers' predicted grades.

Teacher assessed grades, moderated by statistical modelling, were introduced in both countries following the coronavirus cancellation of exams. However, fears have been growing of a backlash when A-level results are released on Thursday.

Head teachers attacked the last-minute change as "panicked and chaotic".

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, abruptly announced that pupils could substitute the grades they received in mock exams held by their schools earlier this year – so long as the mocks 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.

The change means that if pupils get an estimated grade lower than their mock exam they can appeal through their school,with the terms for approving appeals to be decided by the exam watchdog, Ofqual.

Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, said the move "beggars belief" and that mock exams were carried out in many different ways and were not consistent enough to be used to determine A-level and GCSE results.

"The government doesn't appear to understand how mock exams work. They aren't a set of exams which all conform to the same standards. The clue is in the name 'mock'," said Mr Barton.

England's exam regulator Ofqual warned that relying on teachers' predictions would unfairly inflate results.

Using teachers' predictions would have meant about 38% of entries would have been A* or A grades this year - considerably higher than the previous record of 27%.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned that the approach to this year's exams risks "robbing a generation of young people of their future".

The shadow education secretary, Kate Green, urged the government to put in place “a robust appeals system”. And she criticised the latest change to the system, telling Sky News: “I don’t think the mock exams are a reliable way of pointing on their own to a student’s attainment.”

Ministers have asked Ofqual, England’s exams regulator, to “determine how and when valid mock results can be used to calculate grades”.

Ofqual had previously not allowed individual appeals. The DfE has also announced £30m for schools to pay entry fees for the extra set of A level and GCSE exams being held in autumn.