Criteria for exam appeals suspended by Ofqual hours after policy announced

The national exam regulator has suspended its criteria for students hoping to appeal their A-level results, following the downgrading of nearly 40% of grades on Thursday.

Ofqual made the announcement in a brief statement released late on Saturday, adding that further information will be released ‘in due course’. It came just hours after they laid out the criteria for appealing exam results using grades from mock exams – a move which Conservative MP Robert Halfon called ‘a huge mess’.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils had their expected grades marked down this week, sparking debate and a protest outside Downing Street.

Due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions, no A-level or GCSE students were able to take exams this summer, meaning their final grades were calculated using mock results, teachers’ predictions and Ofqual’s standardisation process.

Ofqual previously said students could appeal if their mock result was higher than their final grade. On Saturday, they then further said they would consider teacher assessments if a mock had not taken place.

However, a statement published late last night on the regulator’s website read: ‘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.’

The handling of results by the government has been increasingly criticised by students, parents and teachers, with protestors calling for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to resign.

In response to Ofqual’s sudden recalling of the appeals criteria, MP Robert Halfon told BBC News: ‘That is a huge mess. Goodness knows what is going on at Ofqual. It is the last thing we need at this time. This just unacceptable in my view.

‘Students and teachers are incredibly anxious – particularly the students who are worried about their future. This has got to be sorted out.

‘Ofqual shouldn’t put things on websites, take them away, sow confusion. This is just not on and it has got to be changed.’

Prior to the release of results, the Department of Education had defined a ‘triple lock’ commitment that would allow the students to use the highest grade from their teachers’ predictions, their mock exam results or the result from sitting the exam in autumn.

However, Labour noted that, using the now-suspended Ofqual criteria, some students wouldn’t be able to use their mock results as the basis for an appeal if the assessment did not meet the criteria.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: ‘Gavin Williamson promised to give students a triple lock, but instead he left many devastated by unfair exam results, and now his commitment to give them another chance is rapidly unravelling.

‘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.’

What was the criteria for appealing using mock exam results?

  • Conditions: Exams must have been supervised, unseen and undertaken in conditions intended to secure the work as the student’s own
  • Form of assessment: Either past assessments produced by the relevant exam board or assessments developed by teachers
  • Duration: Taken under timed conditions
  • Time period: Completed before 20 March 2020, when schools and colleges were closed
  • Syllabus: The exams must have ‘substantial coverage’ of the specification for the given subject
  • Marking: The exams must have been marked using a mark scheme provided by the relevant exam board
  • Grading: Graded in line with the exam board’s examination standard
  • Evidence: Schools appealing with mocks must produce evidence of the mark given and that marking was carried out by the date of teachers’ prediction submission

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