Great Britain

Schools WILL be able to appeal their exam results if they are lower than expected, say exam regulators

SCHOOLS in England will be able to appeal their students' GCSE and A-Level grades if they are lower than expected.

Exam regulator Ofqual today confirmed that schools and colleges can appeal if they can prove that historical data used to standardise grades is not representative of this year's results because of a change in circumstances.

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But Ofqual also confirmed that individual pupils will not be allowed to challenge grades themselves.

This means that schools and colleges will need to appeal against results on their behalf.

The new Ofqual guidance - published just a week before A-Level results day - comes amidst warnings from headteachers that barring appeals against unfair grades risks "imposing a life sentence" on students.

And it follows a "shambolic" exam results process in Scotland, where 124,564 pupils saw results downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and were barred from appealing.

Regulators in Scotland and England drew up statistical models to generate pupils’ grade after public exams were scrapped because of the coronavirus.

Both models are said to take into account various factors including data on a school's historic grades in the same subjects.

NEW GUIDANCE

Under the new Ofqual guidance, schools and colleges can appeal if they were expecting results this year to "show a very different pattern of grades" to results in previous years because of the ability profile of students this year.

It also takes into account whether a school has had a "significant change in leadership or governance" - and if it can provide evidence that its previous grades are "not a reliable indicator" of this year's results it will be allowed to challenge results.

If a single-sex school has changed to co-educational - or a school has experienced a "monumental event" like a fire which meant it had to move and it affected previous exam results - then they can appeal grades.

Schools and colleges can also appeal to the board if it believes it made an error when submitting a grade or if it believes an exam board made a mistake.

Pupils can ask their school to check whether it made an administrative error when submitting their grade, and if so can ask them to submit an appeal to the board.

It comes as Ian Power, the general secretary of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference (HMC), which represents a number of prestigious schools including Eton, Harrow and Winchester, warned that allowing students the right to appeal against their grades this summer was a matter of "natural justice".

Mr Power said appeals were the "biggest concern" for the HMC this year, adding: "Having the right to appeal a result is natural justice. The appeals process this year is even more narrow than normal.

"Parents will take the action they feel they have to and, if that involves legal action, that could happen. That is part of the frustration."

Dr Stephen said the current system works fairly "only for those schools whose performance has been static for three years", adding that it is "grossly unfair to year groups who are unusually gifted".

The exam regulator launched a consultation in June which proposed some additional grounds on which students could challenge results.

An Ofqual spokesman said: "It is important that students understand their options, including the possibility of an appeal, if they do not receive the grade they expected.  

"Students will be able to appeal, through their school or college, if they believe a mistake has been made or that something has gone wrong in their case.  

"We are committed to helping students, and their families, understand the options available to them and will be publishing information on how appeals will operate this summer."

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