Exams regulator Ofqual has confirmed that both A-level and GCSEs students will be given their teacher grades in what is a major U-turn for the government.
The announcement, trailed by national newspaper journalists on Twitter earlier today, follows mounting pressure on the government over last week’s calculated grades that were mostly awarded based on Ofqual’s algorithm. Nearly 40 per cent of final grades were downgraded from centre assessment grades (CAGs).
The announcement today means pupils will receive either their CAG or calculated grade – whichever is higher. It applies to A and AS levels, as well as GCSEs.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said this had been an “extraordinarily difficult year for young people who were unable to take their exams.
‘We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process.
‘We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results.”
He added: “I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve.”
Ofqual has also said it is “extremely sorry” for the “real anguish” its grading system caused.
Chair Roger Taylor added: “We want to take steps to remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people as possible – and to free up heads and teachers to work towards the important task of getting all schools open in two weeks.
“After reflection, we have decided that the best way to do this is to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted.”
Scotland has already U-turned to allow teacher grades, and this morning Northern Ireland and Wales announced similar moves.
Williamson had insisted on Saturday that there would be “no U-turn”. But the decision was made to allow centre-assessed grades after Ofqual chaotically pulled its guidance on appeals – leaving students who missed out on the grades needed to progress onto their next destination in further limbo.
It was reported the guidance was removed as Ofqual board members were split over instead just allowing centre assessment grades to be awarded.
But it appears Williamson will survive the controversy. A spokesperson for prime minister said Boris Johnson had “full confidence” in the embattled education secretary.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said: “The big question remains as to why this decision has taken so long to come, as it may already be too late for some A level students who have already missed out on their first choice of university and course.
“Every day of delay is going to have loaded more and more difficulty onto universities and their capacity to meet all of the demand for places that will now inevitably come their way. For them, the problem is far from over.”
However Williamson has now announced the cap on the number of pupils recruited by universities will be lifted. He said they “won’t be fined and we’re removing those caps on every single university in the United Kingdom, so that they have the ability to expand the number of places, welcoming more students into those universities, as many as possible”.
But Dr Tim Bradshaw, CEO of the Russell Group, said universities need “urgent clarification from government on the additional support it will provide to help with the expected increases in student numbers, particularly for high cost subjects such as chemistry, medicine and engineering”.
UCAS has also told students that while it will pass on the revised grades to universities, it will be for the individual university or college to make a decision – not UCAS.
There’s also no details on whether the appeals policy will be amended in light of this.