Students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will get A-level and GCSE grades predicted by teachers

Government abandons standardised grades

A-level and GCSE students in England will be awarded the grades estimated for them by their teachers, the government has announced.

The government has been forced into a U-turn following protests and petitions from students and mounting criticism from education leaders and leading politicians.

The shift in policy follows earlier announcements in Wales and Northern Ireland.

A-level and GCSE students in Wales and Northern Ireland will also receive their teacher-predicted grades.

An announcement was made last week in Scotland to revert exam grades to those given by teachers, following widespread criticism.

In England, almost 40% of A-level grades predicted by teachers had been lowered when results were published last week, after they had been standardised by an algorithm.

The change to accept teacher estimates also affects AS-levels.

Students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep them.

Currently, the U-turn will not apply to Btec students, who will still receive their standardised grades. 

The chair of the exams regulator Ofqual, Roger Taylor, released a statement saying: "we understand this has been a distressing time for students, who were awarded exam results last week for exams they never took.

"The pandemic has created circumstances no one could have ever imagined or wished for. We want to now take steps to remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people as possible. 

"After reflection, we have decided that the best way to do this is to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted. The switch to centre assessment grades will apply to both AS and A-levels and to the GCSE results which students will receive later this week."

Ofqual will be working with the Department for Education (DfE) and universities to create a "path forward" that "will provide urgent clarity" to students, Taylor added. 

Here's a link to the full Ofqual statement

More like this: how the government's U-turn on grading will affect you

What does this mean for university applicants?

Lots of students have accepted university places – or decided to go into Clearing – based on the results they were given on Thursday.

But when the new A-level results are released, many applicants who had previously missed out on their firm choices will have got the results they needed.

And because of this, the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, has said that the university admissions cap – which is a limit on the number of students a university can accept – will be lifted to try to make sure there are enough spaces for everyone.

Usually, a university would be fined if it went over the number of students allowed by its admissions cap, but Williamson has confirmed that “they won’t be fined and we’re removing those caps on every single university in the UK so they have the ability to expand the number of places, welcoming more students into those universities.”

Ucas has said that, “for those students who were not placed with their firm (or insurance) choice university, our advice is that you don’t need to make your decision immediately. 

“Speak with your parents, guardians, and teachers, and then your first conversation will need to be to your firm (or insurance) choice university.

“Once your university has your ‘Centre Assessed Grades (CAG)’ via exam bodies they can make a decision as to whether there is a place at your preferred choice. We will be issuing new advice for students and schools and this will be sent directly to students as soon as they are able to take a decision,” the Ucas statement added.

Universities are being  as flexible as possible with applicants and will continue to support students to find a suitable university place,” commented Alistair Jarvis, the chief executive of Universities UK (UUK).

“The government will need to step up and support universities through the challenges created by this late policy change. We are seeking urgent clarification and advice from government on a number of crucial issues,” Jarvis added.

“Almost 70% of students are already placed with their first-choice institution, but those who are not should think carefully about their next steps, speak to their parents, guardians and teachers and get in to contact with their preferred university to advise on their options,” Jarvis finished.

Find out more about what this U-turn could mean for your university entry here

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