17th August 2020

Education Policy Institute statement on GCSEs and A levels

Commenting on the options for the government and Ofqual, ahead of GCSE results, David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said: 

“It’s clear this week that England faces a crisis of confidence in its exam grading, which is causing distress to students and uncertainty for schools, colleges and universities.

“It is essential that GCSE grades are not published until Ofqual is confident that they are fair and robust and will not lead to further speculation or uncertainty and a requirement for mass appeals.

“Ofqual has tried hard to maintain the overall credibility of the exams system this year, but this seems to have come at a very high price to fairness to individual students. In making a choice between guarding exam standards and fairness to individual students, it is much more important to prioritise fairness to students.

“We also need to avoid our entire education system being clogged up with appeals – and it is very unlikely that Ofqual has the capacity itself to deal with mass numbers of such appeals.

“It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that for GCSEs this year we may need to use the teacher assessed grades, as they have now decided to do in Northern Ireland. The risk of unfair grading is even larger for GCSEs than it is for A levels. We cannot afford weeks of uncertainty and Ofqual being deluged by tens of thousands of appeals.

“Resolving the A level grading mess is likely to be more challenging. The situation is complicated by the fact that decisions on university entry have already been decided.

“We need a robust A levels appeals process that provides a way out for those students who have been penalised by the system. It is clear that the use of mock exam grades is not a sound basis for appealing grades – this should now be dropped.”