A Level results day 2020

Published 13th August 2020

Following months of preparation and planning, students have this morning received their A Level results and across the country are planning the next stage of their personal journeys. We would like to open this piece by congratulating all students who have received their grades this morning, your final year of school education has been disrupted like no other, We hope that the grades received this morning delivered all that you hoped for.

In any examination cohort, there are disappointments; this year will be no exception but with the evident added confusion caused by the COVID-19 disruption. Students who have not received the grades that they hoped for this morning have options and should work with their teachers and parents to work out appropriate next steps carefully.

We have worked closely with Ofqual over several months as they attempted to do the impossible and devise a system that would be fair to all students. I have stated repeatedly that I was impressed throughout with Ofqual’s determination that the driving factor was to ensure that no student would be unfairly disadvantaged by the COVID disruption; students’ needs and ensuring successful progression were at the centre of every conversation held.

We did have some concern when it was stated that the algorithm used would take into account the schools’ past performance in examinations over the last three years. School improvement is generally gradual, and a school rarely makes massive examination gains from one year to the next; but this does happen, especially where new leadership takes over in a school that has struggled over a prolonged period of time.

Asking teachers to grade and rank their students produced a massive workload issue (relatively easy at each end of the achievement scale but a lot more difficult on the middle banding). Still, we felt that this was the right move by Ofqual as, if not teachers, who else could accurately provide this data?

My primary concern is the intervention after months of planning, by the DfE yesterday when it was announced that mock grades could be used as part of a three-part route of appeal. Mock grades are not standardised, are often (despite teachers’ best efforts) not taken seriously by students, and it is hard to see how this can be seen as anything but a ‘knee jerk’ reaction by the DfE, this has undoubtedly only served to add further volatility to an already stretched system. Students can also choose to sit an autumn examination if they feel that their awarded grade does not reflect their ability.

It is worth students and parents bearing in mind that 35.6 % of all grades awarded by schools were downgraded by one grade, with 2.2% being downgraded by two grades; cold comfort perhaps but this is a national issue and universities will have to respond accordingly.

We will analyse design and technology results at a later stage, but there is some good news here as the numbers entered only reduced by a very small margin and grades are generally steady or improved on last years.

Can we end by thanking the D&T teachers nationally who, in the most difficult of circumstance, have done the very best for the students in their care.

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