Coursework reforms prevent pupils from getting exams ‘special consideration’

Reforms to GCSEs and A-levels could be preventing pupils from being eligible to receive special consideration when they miss exams, according to a new report from Ofqual.

Data released today shows that the number of approved qualification award requests – for pupils who were absent from exams for good reason – dropped by a third, from 24,685 in 2017 to 16,960 this summer.

The exams regulator said recent changes to exams, which have resulted in fewer qualifications using coursework, could have prompted the decrease in the number of approved qualification award requests, which make up a small proportion of approved requests.

This fall comes despite the threshold being lowered last year to allow special consideration for pupils who had completed at least 25 per cent of their overall assessment, rather than 40 per cent.

Meanwhile, the number of approved mark adjustment requests continued to rise in 2018.

However, the most common mark adjustment, for candidates who were present for the assessment but disadvantaged in some way, has fallen to two per cent of the maximum mark, whereas last year it was three per cent.

According to Ofqual, a mark adjustment of two per cent is likely to  be applied for candidates who are ill or under extreme stress at the time of the assessment, whilst three per cent is often reserved for cases involving “recent traumatic experience or domestic crisis”.

The maximum marking adjustment that can be given is five per cent, which is reserved for “the most exceptional cases, such as recent death of a family member or terminal illness”. Nine per cent of marking adjustments received a five per cent increase in 2018, compared to eight per cent the year before.

The report, which covers special consideration requests for GCSEs, AS and A levels, shows that 93 per cent of all requests were approved, a similar level to last year.

For AS and A level, the most special consideration requests were made for maths, biology, psychology and chemistry. There has been a sharp drop in the number of requests made for maths assessments, from 29,315 to 19,555, although the report said this was likely to be explained by the decline in entries for AS maths.

For GCSEs, most requests were made for science subjects, maths and English.

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