GCSE and A Level Results initial analysis and statement

Published 20th August 2020

I have deferred writing this until today as it appeared that as each day passes, there is yet another significant shift in just how these grades are calculated and awarded to students nationally. I want to start by congratulating students who have picked up their GCSE grades this morning. There will no doubt be much written about how these grades were awarded, and no doubt some will question the assessment methodology finally used but let there be no question you have earned these grades. They were awarded in the main by your teachers who know your ability and have awarded these grades accordingly.

GCSE Awards 2020

Across all subjects, GCSE pass rates have risen from 70% last year to 79% this year.

D&T entries stood at 86,664. This is down 1,033 or just under 1.2% from last year, a relatively small reduction in entries in comparison with recent years.

The good news is that design and technology pass rates (grade 4 or above) are up 15.7% with a 12.6% increase in grade 6 or above and corresponding high percentage increases in the top grades of 8 (up 4.9%) and 9 (up 2.4%). These are significant improvements for the subject, and whenever looking at raw data such as this, we have to bear in mind that these grades represent students who have worked hard across several years to obtain these. 

Our congratulations go to students and their teachers nationally, these are a fantastic set of results achieved under the most difficult of circumstances.

A Level Awards 2020

Where to start? Last week I wrote a short piece on the A Level results and stated that our involvement with Ofqual throughout the build-up to last week’s debacle had instilled confidence. All conversations held centred around a stated desire to ensure that no student was disadvantaged by the unfortunate circumstances that we find ourselves in and that all students would be able to progress to the next stage of their educational journey satisfactorily.

We have been discussing for some months the need to normalise centre data, and we were assured that a model had been produced and tested that would ensure fairness to all students. What students nationally were subjected to last week is wholly unacceptable, any algorithm that fails to take into account that schools will have students that through hard work and dedication will move above a centre average demonstrates a complete lack of educational understanding on behalf of those programming the system.

There will no doubt be reports and investigations into what went wrong and where the blame lies, but this will be cold comfort to students and their parents who have suffered unnecessary anxiety and stress over the last week, and it quite simply should not have happened.

In amongst this, the design and technology figures were excellent. The number of students achieving grade C or above rose by 18.4%, B or above by 21.5%, A grade or above was up by 16.7% and A* increased by 6.3%.

There is no doubt a degree of truth in the fact that our subject has a large number of centres with relatively small entry numbers, the grades submitted in these centres fell below the external moderation procedures and as such avoided the algorithm; that said, these are an amazing set of results and students and their teachers across the country have done our subject proud!

BTEC results  

The announcement made at 4.30 pm yesterday by Pearson that they had decided to delay awarding this year’s BTEC results was unfortunate in its timing, being so late to be announced, but is understandable. If vocational results are to rightfully sit alongside GCSEs and A Levels as being truly equal, then the grades awarded must be comparable. Pearson has stated that no grades will be reduced as an exercise is taken to ensure compatibility with equivalent qualification level grades awarded. This recalculation needs to be completed as quickly as possible to ensure that students are not further disadvantaged.

Learning from failure

Regrettably, it took the effects of a pandemic before teachers were trusted to award grades for the students that they know so well, and even then, this was only a last-minute decision once other measures had failed. We need to learn from this and ask some serious questions about how we rely on endpoint assessment as being the only way to award grades. We owe it to this cohort of students to ensure that this sad episode never repeats.

Tony Ryan
Chief Executive Officer
The Design and Technology Association

Back to News