12th August 2020

EPI comment on government announcement on using mock exam results to deliver a “triple lock”

Responding to the government’s recent changes to the grading system this year, ahead of A level results tomorrow, David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), commented:

“While the suspension of national exams this year has made it challenging to devise a fair grading system, it is highly unsatisfactory that the government is announcing a change to the awarding of grades less than 48 hours before A level results are due to be published.

“The government is in danger of creating confusion for students, parents and universities by talking of a “triple lock”, including the implied option for students to choose to receive their “mock” grade.  In fact, the use of a mock grade seems to only be part of an appeals process, rather than being a guarantee.

“Given the inconsistent ways in which they are used by schools, offering a mock grade option also does very little to solve the question of fairness. Ofqual now faces the huge task of attempting to set what the standards for a valid mock result will be.

“The Department for Education and Ofqual need to ensure that exam results are fair to individual students, including those from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds. It is also important that national results are credible and not excessively out of line with what might reasonably have been expected for this group of students.

“Given the chaos over Scotland’s exam results this year, there needs to be close scrutiny in England of A level and GCSE results to ensure these objectives are being secured.

“In spite of the appeals process, there may well be some students this year who are not fairly served by the attempt to award exam grades without holding exams. It is now essential that universities, schools and colleges act flexibly and pragmatically to ensure that students who might unfairly lose out on opportunities are protected. This means being particularly sensitive where students have missed their targets by a single grade.

“It is important that the qualifications system should have credibility. But it is even more important that individual students should not have their future prospects damaged unfairly due to the exceptional circumstances of this year.”