Coronavirus: DfE confirms August results days, abandoning 'end of July' deadline

GCSE and A-level results days will be in August this year, the government has announced, seemingly abandoning an aim to provide pupils with grades before the end of July.

The Department for Education has today confirmed that pupils will receive A-level results on August 13 and GCSE results on August 20. These are the same dates that results would have been distributed had this year’s exams not been cancelled.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said he was “pleased” that pupils “will still receive their exam results as planned this summer”.

However, the announcement conflicts with an earlier statement made by the government.

On March 20, when details of how GCSEs and A-levels would be awarded this year first emerged, the DfE said its aim was to provide calculated grades to students “before the end of July”.

Speaking today, Gibb said: “I want to thank all those who are helping to make this happen despite the challenges we are facing.

“We know that this is an important milestone for students, parents and teachers and so I hope this news will provide them with some reassurance and clarity.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We would imagine that this is a pragmatic decision taken to give exam boards and Ofqual as much time as possible to sort out this year’s grading given the fact that it is a totally untried system forced by extraordinary circumstances.

“That seems pretty reasonable, and actually only returns us to the normal timing of the respective results days. Universities have already indicated that they will treat this year’s A-level grades in the normal way so we cannot foresee this decision creating any problems.”

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute and a former special adviser to the government, said the move to the August dates was “not, in itself, a major problem”.

“Many of us were surprised by the earlier date, which never seemed to have much rationale,” he told Schools Week.

“The whole odd episode highlights the problem of making policy in this space in too hurried a fashion. Pupils, parents and carers, teachers, schools, FE colleges, higher education institutions and their admissions staff all need clarity. So it is vital that the reversion to the old date is now the final word on the subject.”

Sarah Hannafin, a senior policy adviser and secondary specialist at the National Association of Head Teachers said it was “vital that teachers, exam boards and Ofqual have the time they need to apply these exceptional processes correctly and fairly to ensure everyone can have confidence in the results”.

“Whilst there was an initial aim to make this earlier, the government has clearly looked at the processes needed to be put in place to make awarding work and realised this would not be possible. If the deadline for teachers is no earlier than the end of May to submit their judgements, there is then only June and July to process them, apply the statistical modelling, and generate the final grades.”