A Level Results Day

Good luck and best wishes to all those receiving their A-Level and vocational results today in Newcastle and across the country. This has been an incredibly challenging time and you deserve all the support and opportunities available.

I know many students and parents will be anxious about their results with all the uncertainties surrounding this year’s grades.

This was never going to be an easy process, but the way the results appear to have been calculated has generated considerable concern. There are worries the inclusion of factors that have nothing to do with students’ own academic abilities has disadvantaged some groups of students. It is important that nobody should have their future put at risk just because they happen to attend a school with a deprived intake.

I have set out a quick guide below on the options available to you if you did not get the grades you were hoping for.

Calculated grades

In each subject you are entitled to receive the higher result out of 1) the calculated grade, 2) a ‘valid’ mock exam grade, or 3) a grade achieved by sitting exams in the Autumn.

The grades you receive today have been determined by teachers’ judgements of the grades students would likely have received, rankings of students based on teacher evaluation and other school level and national data, which was then moderated by the independent exam regulator, Ofqual. This process is by no means perfect and there is a danger it could be very unfair to some groups of students.

It is not currently possible to raise a complaint if you disagree with your teacher’s evaluations, but if you believe the school may have made an administrative error that affected your grade you should contact them immediately. If they agree an error has been made, they can submit an appeal. If the school or college will not submit an appeal it must have a process in place whereby you can ask for a review of that decision.

If you feel you have been discriminated against in this process you can raise a complaint. This is a serious allegation of malpractice, so you would need to present evidence. More information about this process and specific examples of the sort of evidence that would be considered is available here.

The lack of a proper appeals process is far from ideal. There will be many students for whom sitting exams in the Autumn is not practical and the Government should really have put in place a process to allow them to challenge their individual results.

Using mock exam results

If your calculated grade is lower than your mock exam grade in one or more subjects, you can now apply to use this grade instead of the calculated grade after the Government introduced a last-minute change to the process.

This is not without problems – not all schools use mock exams, many students will not have completed them before the lockdown, and we know schools can take very different approaches to their conduct. It is not clear how the Government intends to achieve consistency across the country.

To request the use your mock results you must notify your school, which will then have to provide evidence of ‘valid’ mock exam results to exam boards.

According to the Department for Education, Ofqual is still determining the details of “how and when valid mock results can be used to calculate grades” so it is possible some requests may be turned down.

Autumn exams

If you are unhappy with your calculated grade and do not want to use your mock exam results your other option is to take exams in the Autumn.

You can sit exams in as many or as few subjects as you wish at no cost, and if the final grade is lower than your calculated grade you can still use the latter.

Ofqual has said that the deadline for entry to AS and A-level exams is 4 September, but it is worth checking with your school as they may have their own deadlines.

If you need more information

If you are still unsure or need more information, the DfE has a more detailed guide available here. The National Careers Service also has an Exam Results Helpline at 0800 100 900 to help with information on appeals, complaints, or what your next steps might be.