Exam result s won’t be fair this year, it will be harder to appeal them and the most disadvantaged stand to lose most, say students waiting to hear what assessed grades they have got.

Some headteachers also said the model used for arriving at grades this year is not fair.

Fears are mounting that A level grades out next week, and GCSEs the week after, will see some students receive worse than expected grades.

With exams cancelled and schools shut thanks to COVID A level, AS and GCSE results this summer are being awarded using a range of data including ranking students and teacher assessment or Centre Assessment Grades.

Other measures include looking at schools’ and pupils’ past performance.

“I am worried with the fact my school’s previous exam results were not very good. I would rather have sat my exams," said Joshua Jones, 18, from Croesyceiliog Comprehensive

Last week thousands of Scottish school pupils received worse results than they had been expecting after the country’s exam body lowered 125,000 estimated grades - a quarter of the total.

In an ongoing row there, Nicola Sturgeon has said all pupils who are unhappy with their exam results will be able to appeal them for free.

In Wales students and headteachers are also worried about results being downgraded here.

Some heads fear improvements made this year in some schools won’t be reflected in results which will be partly awarded on past overall performance.

It will also be harder to appeal. Individual students unhappy with grades awarded will not be able to appeal to exam board the WJEC but the WJEC can consider appeals made by exam centres on certain grounds.

Qualifications Wales' guidance says: "Under the circumstances, the normal arrangements for reviews of marking and appeals will not apply.

"We are considering what arrangements might be put in place to allow an effective appeal, whilst keeping numbers and complexity of appeals manageable so as to avoid delay and uncertainty for students.

"More information will be made available to teachers, learners, parents and carers at the time final results are issued, to facilitate any appeals against the process."

A level students waiting to find out if they’ve got the grades needed to take up university offers said the most disadvantaged stand to lose most, feeding existing inequality.

Joshua Jones, 18, Croesyceiliog Comprehensive, Cwmbran, needs three A grades to take up his first choice offer to study biological sciences at Imperial College, London.

He fears despite his three As in his AS level biology, chemistry and maths, other data being considered means he won’t get the three A*s his teachers predicted before COVID-19 led to exams being cancelled.

“People affected the most are the top students in schools that don’t normally do very well as a whole,” said Joshua.

“I am worried with the fact my school’s previous exam results were not very good. If Qualification Wales sees that and that my teachers predicted three A*s they might think twice when they look at grades over the last few years.

“The top universities also might be less lenient if you don’t make your offer grades.

“I would have preferred to take exams. I know you should have faith in teachers but I had more faith in myself taking the exams.

“I am looking at Clearing incase I don’t get the grades I need. I would never have considered that if I’d been able to take the exams.

“It’s all been quite disheartening. When we get results next week, whatever they are, it will feel like nothing, like our achievement has been taken away. There won’t be the same satisfaction as knowing you’ve done well in an exam.”

Millie Harris, 17, from Cardiff

Millie Harris, 17, said she feels more secure knowing her independent school Howell’s in Cardiff has a very good exam results record, but still fears she won’t get the grades she hoped for and believes the system is not fair.

“I would not want to be an exceptionally bright person in a (historically) low achieving school,” she said.

“I am worried about how they are going to standardise grades. I think some will go down and maybe some up, which might look fine nationally but it might not be for the individual. It might be the wrong people whose grades go up or down.

“I trust teachers but I don’t trust the exam boards so I am worried about what’s happened to my assessed grades post send off.”

Regardless of her grades Millie has decided to defer a year. She had offers including a place to read law at Durham University, but said the potential disruption caused by the pandemic made her decide to take a year out.

Jon McAloney, 18, from  Ysgol Greenhill in Tenby, admits he’s worried he won’t get the grades he needs to take up his offer of a place to read mechanical engineering at Swansea University.

He fears his lower than hoped for AS grades last year will see him marked down in assessment. Although he had hoped to improve on these if he had sat the exams.

“I would rather have sat the exams. Some people do better in exams than others. I generally do better in exams than in my work.”

Jon said his teachers know he usually does well and he trusts them, but their assessment is not the only measure looked at.

Jon McAloney, 18, from Ysgol Greenhill in Tenby

Headteachers of schools which have improved in very recent years also expressed concerns privately. One said the standardised model for reaching grades is “not fair”.

The y added: "We were on course for its best ever results. We had more students already with C or above in English and maths than last three years, but a standardised model may scupper this.”  .

Another added: “We were expecting a massive increase in results this year. It’s a pity they weren’t given the opportunity to sit exams. Hopefully the agreed results will reflect this.”

Professor Alma Harris, chair of the School of Education at Swansea University, said the system for arriving at grades this year would not be perfect but was the best one in the circumstances.

“I think there are enough data points to give a reliable score to students, but that’s not to suggest there won’t be any issues,” she said.

“I would have a high degree of confidence in the regulator but that does not mean that some schools and individuals might feel disappointment.”

“The approach to awarding this year’s grades has been carefully thought through to be as fair as possible in the circumstances and to protect the value of results.

"The standardisation process will use information about an exams centre’s historic performance, but this will be adjusted to reflect this year’s students so that learners across Wales are treated in the fairest possible way.

“WJEC will be publishing their appeal arrangements shortly. As in normal years, appeals can only be submitted by the exam centre.”

Exam board WJEC said in a statement: Unlike previous years, results this year will be calculated on the basis of Centre Assessment Grades and Rank Ordering, we will then apply an appropriate standardisation model for each qualification to produce a final grade to our learners, and to ensure consistency across all schools and colleges.

“Our standardisation models have been extensively tested, and approved by the regulator, to ensure they give learners the most accurate and fairest results possible given the current circumstances.

“Our testing of the models indicates that the majority of learners will receive a final qualification grade that will either be the same, or within one grade of their centre assessment grades.

"Our process will ensure that we meet Qualifications Wales aim of producing national results this year that are broadly similar to those in previous years.

“We are in the process of finalising information on the appeals process.  As in any standard examination series, learners can appeal a result through their school and college if they believe that an error has been made in awarding their qualification grade.

"We will provide as much information as possible to schools and colleges so they can identify if any such errors have been made so that we can resolve those as swiftly as possible."