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A-level chaos after exam regulator withdraws appeal guidance as parents start legal action over downgraded results

A-level chaos after exam regulator withdraws appeal guidance as parents start legal action over downgraded results

There has been widespread anger over the results (PA)

3 min read

The exam regulator in England has suspended its guidance on appealing A-Level results just hours after publishing it amid the ongoing row over this year's grades.

On Saturday, Ofqual stated that other teacher assessments could be considered as a “valid” mock exam where an official mock was not sat by the pupil.

But this advice was withdrawn later the same day, with the Government body claiming the policy was under “review” and that “further information will be published in due course”.

The confusion comes as five million students are set to receive their GCSE results later this week under the same controversial moderation system.

Analysis, shared with the Observer, warns 97% of those grades are set to be determined solely using an algorithm, fuelling fears of a repeat of this week’s A-Level confusion.

Following anger over Holyrood’s handling of Scottish Higher results, the Government announced on Wednesday—just under 24 hours before results were set to be released—that all grades would be protected by a so-called “triple lock”.

This guaranteed students could accept their calculated grade, appeal on the basis of a valid mock result, or resit their exams in the autumn. 

New guidance was subsequently published by Ofqual, stating that for an assessment to be considered “valid” it had to have been taken in exam-style conditions prior to the closure of schools, constituted a closed paper not available to students prior to sitting, and marked using exam board marking schemes. 

But Labour warned these criteria could mean some young people would not be able to use their mock results as the basis for an appeal if the assessment.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: "Gavin Williamson promised to give students a triple lock, but instead he left many devastated by unfair exam results, and now his commitment to give them another chance is rapidly unravelling.

"Having promised that students will be able to use a valid mock result, the reality is that many will not receive these grades even if they represent a student's best result.

"The latest chaos is the inevitable consequence of this government's shambolic approach to exams, which saw solutions dreamt up on the back of a cigarette packet and announced barely a day before young people received their results."

Meanwhile the Government is set to face a legal battle over the handling of this year’s examinations, which were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Times reports several parents and groups representing pupils have already begun proceedings, including a claim brought on behalf of six pupils by the Good Law Project.

A pre-action letter has been sent to Ofqual by the non-profit organisation and, as of Sunday morning, a crowdfunding campaign for the case had already received £40,000.

Curtis Parfitt-Ford, an 18-year-old student, is also set to take the regulator to court after gaining the backing of law firm Leigh Day and collecting 130,000 signatures on a petition calling for a fairer system. 

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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