I am writing to update you on the very latest information that I have regarding the current situation with exam results. It’s been a worrying, sad and sorry time, so I am happy to write to you with updates following the latest announcement today and I am delighted for students who have now been given the grades they deserved.
I completely recognise this past week has been an incredibly stressful one for parents, grandparents and, vitally, local students across the constituency and I am pleased the decision has now been made for both A-Level and GCSE grades to be awarded based on teacher-assessed grades, unless their moderated grades are higher. I do firmly believe this is the right decision to make in what are extraordinary times and it’s a significant change which I welcome.
Following the results day last week, I have been urgently corresponding with my ministerial colleagues in the Department for Education on behalf of constituents about the issues around the previous system in place and the need for all students to have the best chance of leaving school with the grades they deserve, whether they’re private or state educated.
These are unprecedented circumstances and this Government have always been prepared to revisit decisions made if it became abundantly clear the incorrect path has been taken. The Chief of Ofqual, Roger Taylor, has apologised for the difficulty and anxiety students have faced over the previous 5 days and I am glad the correct decision has been taken following this review.
Ofqual have made a statement this afternoon following this decision, stating that: “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 - and to free up heads and teachers to work towards the important task of getting all schools open in two weeks.” They go on to explain how they “recognise that while the approach we adopted attempted to achieve these goals we also appreciate that it has also caused real anguish and damaged public confidence. Expecting schools to submit appeals where grades were incorrect placed a burden on teachers when they need to be preparing for the new term and has created uncertainty and anxiety for students. For all of that, we are extremely sorry.” Following this, it was decided that “students be awarded their Centre Assessment Grade for this summer - that is, the grade their school or college estimated was the grade they would most likely have achieved in their exam - or the moderated grade, whichever is higher. The path forward we now plan to implement will provide urgent clarity. We are already working with the Department for Education, universities and everyone else affected by this issue.”
Additionally, Ofqual have now removed the student number caps, so there will be no limit on the number of university places and they will continue to work with universities to support them in providing places for students who have met their required grades.
On the matter of BTECs, Ofqual have explained “the reason why this is not being done for BTECs is that they were not subject to the same sort of statistical moderation by algorithm. Instead the grade was based on a range of evidence and qualitative judgement. Ofqual is not expecting Pearson to review these grades given it was not a single algorithm which determined the final result. Only 2% of BTEC grades changed compared to the teacher assessment, which is in line with moderation in a normal year and very different from the nearly 40% of A-Level grades that were moderated down.”
This has been an extremely fast-moving situation and due to both this, and the significant level of correspondence I have received, I am only now fully responding to you, so I thank you for your patience whilst I have been making representations alongside other MPs to the Department for Education. I do hope that, following the news today regarding CAGs now being used to award A-Levels and GCSEs if they are higher, I am emailing you in happier circumstances than when you first got in touch on this matter.
It was clear, as the hours passed, there was a serious disparity in how results had been downgraded between state and private schools - I raised this particular issue with my colleagues in DfE as well, which I hope has been rectified by the decision today.
Every result is a young student whose life is significantly defined by the results they have been given and this is why I believe it is vital this process should be done as fairly as possible – I believe in this regard the fairest solution has now been found. I have made this abundantly clear to my ministerial colleagues over the last few days.
I have also been in touch with Universities UK on this matter over the last few days, particularly concerning students who have missed the grades for their university offer. They have emphasised to me students are advised to contact their university directly and that universities have committed to being flexible, with most considering a wide variety of factors in addition to the grade awarded. University teams are ready and waiting to support students and talk them through the opportunities and options available to them in the days and weeks ahead. University teams will do all they can to help students in these challenging times
I will continue to follow developments closely and engage with DfE on the upcoming GCSE results.
I hope this is a helpful update and I wish all students and their families well in the exciting, next stage of their lives. I will keep you further updated as necessary.