Your education questions answered by exam regulator Ofqual

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We put your questions directly to Ofqual - here's what they had to say

There's never been a year like this. If you were due to take exams in 2020, you'll have seen the whole lot cancelled and a 'calculated grades' system implemented instead.

These changes to the exam process are immense and the extent of the impact on the next academic year is yet to be fully understood. Everyone's got questions about how it's all going to work - and answers aren't always easy to find.

We've been working closely with Ofqual throughout the lockdown period to help with that. And, following our TSR Answers session where Ofqual associate director Richard Garrett was one of our panelists, we've picked out some of your questions from the forums.

We put these questions to Richard at Ofqual to get the answers that students need right now.

After reading your latest publication I’m still a little confused, is it true that there is no avenue for students to appeal our grades ourselves? – Tacobeth

Richard Garrett: "You will be able to appeal – through your school or college – if you believe the process was not followed correctly in your case. For example, if there was an error when your centre submitted the information, or if the exam board made a mistake when calculating, assigning or communicating your grade.

"We know many students wanted an opportunity to challenge their centre assessment grades. We considered this carefully but  decided it would not be in the interests of students or fairness overall.

"Any appeal would have to be undertaken by someone better placed than your teacher to judge your likely grade if exams had taken place – in the unique circumstances of this summer, we do not believe there is any such person.

"And because of the role of the rank order in grading this year, an appeal would affect other students: if one student successfully appealed against their position in the rank order, it would have negative implications for other students.

"Any student who has concerns about bias, discrimination or any other factor which suggests a centre didn’t behave with care or integrity when determining their centre assessment grade or rank order information, can raise these concerns with their centre in the first instance.

"In some cases, where there is evidence of serious malpractice, it may be appropriate to take those concerns directly to an awarding organisation. We will provide accessible information and have a helpline available to students and their parents or carers to talk about the appeals process and any other questions they may have about their results this summer."

Read more on Ofqual's site

Do you know roughly when you will be able to tell us the exact dates for the Autumn GCSE and A level exams? - Evil Homer

RG: "Providing it’s safe to do so, AS and A levels will take place in October and GCSEs in November. Exam boards are working on the detail of the timetable and we (or exam boards) will confirm as soon as we can.

"We published more information about the autumn exams on Tuesday."

Read more on Ofqual's site

Ofqual has announced that its standardisation process will place more weight on a centre’s historical performance than the submitted grade. This has me worried, would you be able to alleviate my worries? - Lightning720

RG: "Your school or college has sent the exam boards a centre assessment grade for you in each of your subjects, and a rank order of students in each subject.

"Exam boards will standardise this information – making adjustments to grades where needed to bring consistency to teacher judgements across all schools and colleges and to make sure results are comparable with previous years.

"This is in your interests, and those of all students, and will help ensure that you, universities, colleges and employers can have confidence in results this year.

You’re right that we’ll be relying heavily on the previous results of a centre in the standardisation process. That’s because we know from our research that a centre’s results are generally very stable in that they change from one year to the next.

"Of course, you and other students in your year might be more (or less) able than those in previous years and exam boards will use prior attainment (Key Stage 2 for GCSE, and GCSE for AS/A level) when standardising grades as well.

"Grades will only be adjusted when it is necessary to make them fairer and to bring them closer to those you were likely to achieve if you had been able to sit your exams."

More information about the standardisation process can be found in the guidance document on Ofqual's site

Will you be publishing the exact inputs and weighting you will be using for your statistical model or will that information not be available to the public? – Nibblet27

RG: "We know it is important for you to understand the approach being taken this year.

"We have previously published information about the standardisation process which you can find in the guidance document on our website, and we will publish more information about the model we’ve used in August."

Regarding the exam season 2021, will you consider putting exams on during the summer holidays, would this mean everything will be delayed for this cohort compared to other years and therefore will universities potentially start later? – SuperiorPotato

RG: "We’ve just launched a consultation on our proposals for exams in 2021 – that went live on Thursday 2 July and we’d encourage you to respond. You can do that via our website.

"You will see that we are not proposing exams in the holidays, but are considering pushing them back a little, so you have more time with your teachers before they start.

"We have also put forward other proposals designed to free up teaching time and to improve the experience for you." 

When can we hear more about the next academic year and how you the gap between students who had great online learning experiences and those students who hadn’t and may be missing school for further reasons (local lockdowns, illness etc) - X9782

RG: "The Department for Education has published information about plans for students next year and (as above) we’ve launched a consultation on our proposals for exams and assessments Please tell us what you think, by responding to the consultation."

Next: get answers to your questions

We'll be talking to Ofqual regularly over the coming weeks, ahead of results day and the September return to school. If you have a question you would like answered, add it in the comments. We'll try to get as many questions as possible answered.

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