Ofqual REMOVES mock exam appeals policy just hours after publication

The exams regulator sensationally removed its guidance on mock exam appeals just hours after first publishing it – claiming the policy is now being “reviewed”.

On Saturday afternoon, Ofqual published the eight criteria that mock exam grades must meet to be deemed valid and used as part of appeals for downgraded pupils.

However the guidance has since been removed, with a statement issued at 10.50pm saying: “This policy is being reviewed by the Ofqual Board and further information will be published in due course.”

It’s not known why the policy has been pulled, but FE Week’s sister paper Schools Week reported concerns from headteachers that the policy contradicted a promise by education secretary Gavin Williamson that students would be able to appeal to receive a valid mock grade.

Instead, Ofqual said where the mock exam grade is higher than a centre-assessed grade for successful appeals – pupils would instead be awarded their CAG. Heads said such a cap was unfair as it penalised pupils at schools that didn’t over-egg CAGs.

However the regulator said mock exams “do not normally cover the full range of content” while CAGs “took into account the student’s performance across the whole course”.

It was reported by The Daily Telegraph today that Ofqual’s board was split over the grading process, with several members wanting students to be awarded their centre-assessed grades.

In a statement released before the guidance was removed, the DfE said it was “pleased” Ofqual had set out how it will implement the “triple lock policy”.

They also said it was Ofqual’s decision that “in the rare circumstances where the centre-assessed grade is lower than the mock, it would be more appropriate for the student to instead receive the centre-assessed grade.”

In another statement released late last night, the department said: “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.”

Ahead of the release of GCSE results on Thursday, several Conservative politicians, including the chair of the House of Commons education select committee Robert Halfon former education secretary Lord Baker, who oversaw the introduction of the qualifications, have suggested the release of results be postponed while the algorithm exam boards have used to calculate results and the appeals process are fixed.

The government is also facing legal action over the grading fiasco: last week, FE Week reported two legal challenges are in the early stages of being mounted. 

Law firm Foxglove said the A-level algorithm was “unfair and possible unlawful”, and that it was gathering evidence ahead of a potential judicial review.

Student Curtis Parfitt-Ford, whose petition calling for a fairer system has amassed over 135,000 signatures as of this morning.

And Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, has announced that his organisation was mounting a legal challenge to “compliment” the one brought by Foxglove.

The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has also said he will be taking legal advice this morning and has already spoken with lawyers, after he accused the government of “digging in” and “standing by their flawed system”.

The now removed Ofqual press release in full:

The arrangements in place this summer are the fairest possible in the absence of exams, however any process for calculating grades will inevitably produce some results which need to be queried. We and the exam boards share the government’s desire to do all we can to give schools and colleges every opportunity to appeal

On Tuesday (11 August) the Secretary of State asked us to consider how a valid mock exam result could be considered as part of an appeal. As many across education have confirmed, the approach taken towards mock assessments varies considerably between schools and colleges. Therefore any appeal based on mock assessment evidence must include further safeguards to ensure the process is fair.

We are setting out today, Saturday 15 August, the criteria determining what is a valid mock assessment. Exam boards have confirmed they will be ready to process these appeals from Monday – they will provide further information to their centres and contact details are below. Students seeking advice should first speak to their school or college.

This route of appeal is open to any student whose mock grade is higher than their calculated grade. We want to make sure this opportunity is available to a wide range of students, including those who had not taken a written mock exam before schools and colleges closed. We will therefore allow a non-exam assessment mark to be used too. Successful appeals on this ground will allow the student to receive the mock grade. Mock exams and non-exam assessments do not normally cover the full range of content. Centre assessment grades took into account the student’s performance across the whole course. In circumstances where the centre assessment grade was lower than the mock grade, the student will receive the centre assessment grade.

Because of the grade protection in place for students this summer no grades will go down as a result of an appeal.

This applies to GCSE, AS, A level, Extended Project Qualification and Advanced Extension Award in maths.