Ofqual cancels meeting with sector body amid wave of anger over results and appeals

Exams regulator Ofqual has cancelled a meeting with the Association of Colleges amid chaos and widespread anger over the awarding and appeals process for A-level and GCSE results. 

This morning’s meeting was called off while the independent watchdog and the Department for Education are fighting a wave of public anger after many students’ saw the grades awarded to them by their colleges, known as centre-assessed grades (CAGs), downgraded in the standardisation process used by exam boards to calculate final grades. 

This system was introduced after education secretary Gavin Williamson cancelled exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Yet the government is now facing calls, including from former education secretary Lord Baker and Commons education select committee chair Robert Halfon to change tactic after 40 per cent of teacher grades were downgraded in standardisation. 

Ahead of results day last Thursday, Williamson announced a ‘triple lock’ system for A-level students – where they could use the grades calculated by exam boards, their results from resitting their exams in Autumn, or appeal to receive a “valid” mock grade. 

However, students and parents affected by the results downgrading were thrown into further confusion and anxiety after Ofqual first published guidance on appealing to receive mock grades before taking down that guidance a matter of hours later. 

The Department for Education issued a statement late last night, saying: “We have been clear that we want to build as much fairness into the appeals process as possible to help young people in the most difficult cases and have been working with Ofqual to achieve that.” 

“Ofqual continues to consider how to best deliver the appeals process to give schools and pupils the clarity they need.” 

Halfon and Baker have suggested the release of GCSE results this Thursday be postponed while the algorithm exam boards have used to calculate results and the appeals process are fixed. 

The AoC has today called for no centre-assessed grades to be reduced by more than one grade, and for Williamson to admit there was “unwanted systemic bias in the approach to A-level grading and that this is an unacceptable outcome of an imperfect system in an exceptional year”. 

This is on top of an ‘urgent’ technical review of the grades awarded in every college and school where the results are “unfair,” which the association called for last week. 

The Sixth Form Colleges Association, which found in a survey of 81 sixth form college principals that 96 per cent said that overall their calculated grades were “lower than centre-assessed grades”, has called for the government to revert to centre-assessed grades. 

Ofqual adviser Professor Robert Coe has also said using CAGs like Scotland and Northern Ireland have may be the only way forward, telling BBC Radio 4 today the handling of A-level results has been an “an absolute shambles”. 

A number of legal challenges are also being mooted, including one by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, who tweeted that he has already spoken with lawyers after the government, he said, was “standing by their flawed system”.