Schools should be flexible about A-level admissions for GCSE students who miss their grades, exams regulator says

empty exam hall

They should also “consider other evidence” for private candidates who have not been given calculated grades

Colleges and sixth forms should have “greater flexibility” about letting this year’s GCSE students onto A-level courses in the autumn, the exams regulator Ofqual has advised.

Exams were cancelled this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, and students who were due to sit their GCSEs will instead be given calculated grades on results day 2020

But schools should put “slightly less weight” on GCSE results if students have “one or two lower grades,” when they’re making A-level admissions decisions this year, Ofqual said in a letter to school heads.

This is because students have not had “the opportunity to sit exams and other assessments” this year, Ofqual said in its letter.

“You may wish to consider whether you can offer greater flexibility in your admissions decisions than you would in any other year, to allow students to progress to the courses you offer,” the letter continued.

As well as relying less on students getting exact grades, Ofqual suggested that schools could give “slightly more weight than usual to other robust evidence in admissions decisions, for example if you already know a student and their potential well or can determine this from speaking to their previous school”.

Ofqual also urged flexibility around private candidates who have not been able to receive a calculated grade, suggesting that schools could “consider what other evidence could be assessed to allow progression for private candidates who could not receive a calculated grade”.

Students who are not happy with their calculated grades will be able to sit an optional series of exams this autumn if they want to – the GCSE exams will start on 2 November and finish on 23 November, while the A-level exams will run from 5 October until 23 October.

Appeals will only be allowed under a couple of very specific circumstances – you can find out more about appealing your calculated grades here.

More like this: what can you do after GCSEs?

student writing an exam paper

Teachers banned from discussing predicted grades with students until after results day

In the same letter, Ofqual said that teachers are banned from sharing any information about their predicted grades or rankings with students until after results day.

This is partly to “help manage students’ expectations,” Ofqual said, as “the final grades for some or all students in a centre could be different from those submitted”.

Ofqual previously announced that it has lowered many of the original calculated grades submitted by teachers, after it found that GCSE grades submitted by teachers were 9% higher than last year’s results, and 12% higher than last year’s A-levels.

The exam regulator’s standardisation process dropped these grades back down again, but they’re still set to be higher than last year’s results, at around a 1% increase for GCSEs and 2% for A-levels.

The majority of TSR members are still worried about their calculated grades, though – a poll of over 700 TSR members found that 79% are not feeling confident about their calculated grades, despite this reported increase.

“There is still too much confusion regarding the grades,” commented TSR member Sophie_Robyn.

“I had some teachers tell me that we wouldn’t get lower than what we were predicted, I had some tell us that we would. I had some say that we wouldn’t get lower than what we got in our January mock exams and then some saying we’ll get 1-2 grades higher,” they finished.

“At this point, I'm just waiting to see what's going to happen on results day. This has been a very confusing and unpredictable event, which has caused major stress to everyone,” shared
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