10 Aug 2021

Exam results day and beyond

Are you ready for GCSE and A-Level results day? Do you know when your child’s exam results are coming out, and how to help them if they haven’t got the grades they need?

For the second year running, GCSE and A-Level exams worldwide have been severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year the use of algorithms to determine grades caused huge controversy. In response, this year exam boards have allowed schools to award GCSE and A-Level results, based solely on course content that students have actually been taught.

In these exceptional circumstances, your child’s own teachers may prove to be better at deciding their grades than a computer. Nevertheless, this year there are no anonymous exam paper assessors for pupils and teachers to unite against. This new system risks pitting students and parents directly against schools, with the potential for grade disputes to feel personal.

Despite schools’ best efforts to offer fair assessments, exam boards are anticipating a large increase in grade appeals compared to normal years. In the UK, results day for both GCSEs and A-Levels have been brought forward by several weeks to allow students more time to appeal their results. These results day dates are now:

  • A-Levels – England, Wales & Scotland: Tuesday 10th August.
  • GCSEs – England & Wales: Thursday 12th August. Scotland: Tues 10th August.
  • IGCSE & International A-Level results day: 12th August.

In the UK the Department for Education has announced that it will cover the costs to schools of appeals to exam boards over grade decisions. With such widespread expectation of increased challenges to this year’s teacher-assessed grades, it is a good idea to know what you can do if your child’s results are not what they hoped for on results day. So how can you appeal?

1. Internal review

As the first step of the appeals process, the school must conduct an internal review of how a grade was decided. This is to check that all decision-making processes were followed correctly. If any kind of administrative error has been made, schools are able to submit a revised grade to the exam board.

2. Appeal to the exam board

If the school’s internal review finds no error in decision-making, the school may then appeal on your behalf to the exam board. The exam board will check the school’s decision-making processes and the evidence used to reach a decision. It will look to see if the grade awarded was a reasonable exercise of academic judgement. If the exam board decides that the grade awarded was not reasonable, they will adjust the grade.

It’s worth noting that appeals can result in grades going down as well as up. Before you decide to appeal, make sure you are clear why you feel a particular grade is unfair, and examine what evidence you have to support this.

3. Exams Procedure Review Service 

In the case of unsettled disputes between pupils, schools and / or exam boards, cases can be further referred to Ofqual’s Exams Procedure Review Service (EPRS). In these referrals, the exam board’s grade is likely to remain unless the EPRS finds that the exam board has made a procedural error.

Resitting Exams

If an appeal doesn’t lead to an upwardly adjusted grade, you may want to talk to your son or daughter about resitting certain subjects. Most GCSE and A-Level resits take place in November each year. Resitting exams should be done judiciously – revising will have to take place alongside whatever new studies your child embarks upon in September. There is a danger that this dual pressure means both their new subjects and their resit subjects suffer.

If it’s important for your child to resit specific subjects – for example GCSE Maths and English, or specific A-level subjects needed for university entry – you might want to consider engaging a private tutor. A tutor can help structure and support revision, providing additional teaching of weaker subject knowledge and strategies for tackling specific exam papers. Regular tutor sessions offer you and your child the assurance that resit subjects are getting the attention they need, alongside new academic courses. If this is something that you’re considering, please contact us to see how we can support you in finding the right tutor for your child.

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