This advice was written before the announcement in Scotland about Scottish highers, and before the announcement in England about the so-called 'triple lock'. We will consider the best response to this news, and guide accordingly, but for the moment, the process of A Level results on Thursday should still be treated as outlined in this document.
Chris Townsend (12th August)
I am writing in advance of the release of A Level and GCSE results in this most unusual summer. A Level results - 8am Thursday 13th August; GCSE results - 8am Thursday 20th August.
As you will already be aware, these results are calculated grades, generated by a combination of school predictions (Centre Assessed Grades, or CAGs) and a calculation by OFQUAL, based on previous results for each centre, and moderated across the entire national cohort. The DFE guidance is available here and the school's process in calculating the grades is available in the links below.
Our experience with the IB results (which were produced under a different system) was that the global outcome was generally statistically in line with previous years, but that for a significant number of individual candidates, there were problems. This is likely to be repeated with these calculated grades as well, because, in a normal year, there would be a percentage of students who would underperform in exam conditions (probably somewhere in the range of 5-10%). These students cannot be identified in advance, and so will not feature in the final outcomes and calculations. The impact is that, in order to maintain comparable outcomes to previous years (a stated aim of the DFE), results will be brought down slightly in order to accommodate this. In the IB, this impacted those at the top end, and it is possible that the same will happen with A Levels and GCSE, although it is more likely to be spread across the whole cohort.
It is possible that there will be some disappointment on the day as a result of this. The school is taking the following measures in order to mitigate this:
1. We will be seeking to make contact with each student on results' day to review outcomes.
2. Any student with a place in the sixth form will have that place honoured, regardless of outcomes, as long as there is a viable course.
3. Any student who does not achieve their offer for university will have support and individual follow up in order to assist with the best possible outcome for them.
4. We will support any candidate who wishes to retake in the additional exam sitting this autumn (October for A Level and November for GCSE).
More generally, for those taking GCSE exams, universities are only too aware that these grades will not be as truly reflective of standards as in most years, and the few higher tier universities that use GCSE grades as metrics, will be less reliant on these grades in the 2022 and 2023 entries. Therefore, we only recommend that students use the retake options if they have fallen short of a 4 in Maths or English (GCSE) and if their place in higher education depends on a higher grade (A Level).
There will be a great deal of media attention on results this year, and there has already been a lot of discussion about some aspects of the results process, especially after the experience in Scotland last week. A part of this will focus on parents and students requesting evidence from schools about how they have generated their Centre Assessed Grades. Included at the end of this email is our guidance on this topic, and I would ask you to read this carefully. There is a limited appeal process, which is outlined in the document from the DFE on the link above.
Because the students have been denied the opportunity to show in an examination what they are capable of achieving, there could be a sense of deflation for many students on results day, even for those who are awarded impressive results! It is really important that we all encourage them to look at the positives, while also remembering that GCSE results are very important until A Levels are taken, and A Level results are most important until a university place is gained, or the first job is secured. Education is about personal development and growth, learning new skills, and being equipped to be successful in the world, and regardless of the letters or numbers on the certificate, we are very proud of all of our Year 11 and Upper 6th students from the summer of 2020, who have been through an experience that no other year group has faced in most of our lifetimes.
I wish you every success with the results when they are released.
All best wishes,
The grounds for appeal
In light of the exceptional arrangements in place for public examinations this year, the areas on which a school can appeal are also different. The grounds for appeal are limited to the following scenarios (note: these appeals can only be made by schools directly, rather than by individual pupils / parents):
School appeal to the exam board (on behalf of a pupil) on the basis that the school made a mistake.
- A school can appeal to the exam board if it believes its process was not followed correctly in a pupil’s case, including in the data it submitted to the exam board. For example, this may be applicable where a school submitted data for the wrong pupil or submitted the wrong numbers.
The school must provide clear evidence of the error in order to appeal on this basis.
Ofqual is clear that this route cannot be used if a school has changed its professional judgement (e.g. in relation to the appropriate grade or rank order submitted previously), or if a parent / pupil disagrees with the school’s professional judgement. It is solely for administrative errors in the data that was submitted.
You can therefore request that the school checks and confirms that the process was followed correctly in your particular case, including that the correct data was submitted to the exam board.
School appeal to the exam board (on behalf of a pupil) on the basis that the exam board made a mistake when calculating, assigning or communicating a grade.
A school can appeal on the grounds that the exam board used the wrong data when calculating grades, and/or incorrectly communicated the grades calculated.
For example, this may be relevant if a school is concerned the exam board used a different school’s previous results when completing the statistical standardisation procedure (e.g. a school with a similar name or a similar National Centre Number).
A school can ask an exam board for certain information in order to determine whether an appeal should be made.
You can therefore ask that the school seeks this information from the exam board, and confirms to you whether or not there is evidence of a mistake on the part of the exam board, and therefore whether or not the school will make an appeal on this basis.
School appeal to the exam board if it considers previous cohorts are not sufficiently representative of this year’s pupils.
This is a very limited route of appeal and will only be applicable in exceptional circumstances, such as
Where there has been a major structural change at a school this year (e.g. a change from co-educational to single sex or vice versa);
Where a school has had a significant governance, organisational or leadership change and can provide objective evidence that its previous grades are not a reliable indicator of its 2020 results;
Where a school experienced a monumental event (flooding or fire which meant pupils has to re-locate) which affected one year’s results in the historical data used in the model; or
Where a school was expecting results this year to show a very different pattern of grades to results in previous years.
We have considered this appeal route and our initial view is that this is unlikely to apply to our cohorts at Felsted.
4. Exam Procedures Review Service (“EPRS”)
- As a last resort, if a school is unhappy with the outcome of an appeal process, it can appeal this decision through Ofqual’s EPRS.
Deadline for appeals - 17 September 2020.
Following the announcement from the DfE that no pupil would receive a grade below their Mock result, we are waiting to hear the process for making an appeal on those grounds. When that is made clear to us, we will communicate this to you. We will of course be very alive to any circumstances which may seem to warrant an appeal on the above bases.
It is important to note that Ofqual has made it very clear that there is no appeal against the professional judgement of staff, namely that Ofqual has expressly not provided an opportunity for pupils to challenge their CAG or their position in the centre’s rank order through an appeal (save to check whether an error was made by the school or exam board as set out above).
As explained by Ofqual: “It is important to remember that the centre assessment grade and rank order information submitted by your school or college is just one part of the process of calculating your final grade. The centre assessment grades schools and colleges have submitted have been statistically standardised to make sure the same standard is applied to the millions of grades schools and colleges up and down the country submitted for their pupils.”
Other areas for discussion
There are other areas identified by Ofqual in which pupils may want to liaise with the school, although these are not formal rights of appeal to the exam board:
1. Internal school ‘appeal’ by the pupil.
- A pupil can appeal to the school if the school decides (further to a request by the pupil):
a) not to seek information held by the exam board which would be needed for an appeal (as above); and/or
b) any decision by the school not to appeal on behalf of the pupil to the exam board.
- We have provided a clear procedure to follow in such circumstances, as set out below.
2. Bias, discrimination or lack of integrity:
Pupils or others can raise concerns to the school or directly to the exam board if they have concerns about bias, discrimination or any other factor that suggests a school did not behave with care or integrity in determining the CAG or rank order.
Ofqual is clear that such concerns should normally be raised with the school in the first instance. Ofqual has stated that pupils would need evidence of serious malpractice on the part of the school or college for this to be investigated by the exam board.
Ofqual has stated that it believes such cases will be rare. For a pupil’s case to be considered, they will need to show something specific or something surprising, which calls for an explanation that the school has been unable to give.
Where there is such evidence, Ofqual require exam boards to investigate such allegations as potential malpractice or maladministration. As always, if the exam board concludes results are incorrect as a result of malpractice or maladministration, it can correct results.
If a pupil does have concerns in this regard, Ofqual’s pupil guide is particularly helpful: Ofqual Pupil Guide 2020. For instance, it provides various examples as to what may / may not indicate malpractice / maladministration.
Sitting exams in Autumn 2020 or Summer 2021
Although not strictly a right of appeal, Ofqual has carried out various consultations to confirm what the position will be for pupils wishing to take exams in the Autumn or next Summer.
Given the limited routes of appeal, these exams may be sat in order to try to improve upon a grade. Ofqual has confirmed that pupils can take the higher of this Summer’s grade or the one following an exam.
There are various considerations when sitting exams (including any effect on continuing studies / timings) which we would course discuss with you. There are also entry deadlines for Autumn exams so it is important you speak to us promptly (see below for the relevant contact details) if you are considering this option.
If you have any other queries or concerns about your results:
If you have any queries about the process that was followed or concerns about your results, please follow the process below.
As outlined above, Ofqual require all schools to have an internal process should you have any more formal concerns – while we hope that this will not be the case, below is also the route to follow in this regard. This includes if you have any concerns that the school has applied the process incorrectly in your case, or if you wish to obtain information from the Exam Board on the basis that you believe the exam board may have made a mistake when calculating, assigning or communicating a grade.
Email to Miss Sarah Webb, the Headmaster’s PA, at email@example.com stating the nature of your query.
Miss Webb will coordinate all queries to ensure they reach the appropriate person within the school who will be best placed to respond. This will depend upon the nature of a query. For example, a subject specific query is likely to be sent to the relevant head of department.
You will receive a response from the appropriate person in due course.
Timings are particularly important – the deadline for submission of any appeal is 17 September 2020. Therefore, we would encourage you to contact us as soon as possible if you have any queries. We hope to be able to respond to most queries quickly and reassure you as to any next steps.
If you are dissatisfied in relation to a response provided through the above channels, please put your concerns in an email to Mrs Capewell, Deputy Head (Academic) (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If the school considers that the grounds for appeal have been met (for instance, if the school believes it did make an error in relation to the process or in relation to the submission of the CAG or rank of a particular candidate), the school’s exams officer will appeal on this basis to the exam board on behalf of the pupil. If an appeal is submitted, the next steps will be explained to you. Remember that if you appeal, your grade can go up, down or stay the same.
If you have requested that the school seek information from the exam board, or if you have requested an appeal be made on your behalf to the exam board under one of the formal identified routes above, but the school has stated that it does not consider the grounds to be met, you may appeal to the school against this decision. This should be put in writing and emailed to Mrs Capewell, Deputy Head (Academic) (email@example.com).
For information as to how we use personal information or personal data we collect from you and what we do with that information, please see our Privacy Notice (including for pupils) on our website: https://www.felsted.org/parents/policies-school-information
Where else can I find information?
Whilst we would always strongly encourage you to raise any queries with us in the first instance, and we have set out above the appropriate channels for doing so, there is also support and guidance available from external bodies including:
Guidance from Ofqual, including specific documents for pupils, such as:
Student guide to post-16 qualification results: summer 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/student-guide-to-post-16-qualification-results-summer-2020
Guidance entitled ‘Your results, what next?’: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/your-results-what-next
Student guide to appeals and malpractice or maladministration complaints: summer 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/student-guide-to-appeals-and-malpractice-or-maladministration-complaints-summer-2020
The National Careers Service Exam Results Helpline. The Exam Results Helpline can provide information on appeals, complaints, or what your next steps may be once you’ve received your results. The telephone number is 0800 100 900 and its website is nationalcareers.service.gov.uk
The Ofqual student support phoneline. This is available if you want to find out more about how you were graded, the autumn exams series, how to make an appeal or raise a concern about bias or discrimination. The telephone number is 0300 303 3344.
The JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications) guide to the Appeals process 2020: https://www.jcq.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/JCQ-June-2020-appeals-guidance.pdf
As you are aware, in order to produce the A Level and GCSE results this year, schools were asked to submit Centre Assessed Grades for each pupil. These were then used, alongside a statistical algorithm, by each exam board to produce the final grade. In many cases, these grades will be the same, but not necessarily.
You have a right to request this data should you wish to do so. In order to do this, you will need to e-mail your request to firstname.lastname@example.org. This request needs to come from the pupil (using their school e-mail account) as the data belongs to them: if they wish for their parents to receive the information too, this should be specified in their e-mail request. Although we appreciate that you will be keen to receive this information as quickly as possible, we ask that you bear with us while we process your request: our priority on results days is to ensure that all of our pupils are able to move on to their preferred next step.