Greater degree of variation in results possible, Ofqual chief warns

Schools and colleges may see a greater degree of variation in results this year, the exam regulator has warned, with almost all pupils sitting reformed qualifications this year.

In a letter published today, Ofqual chief regulator, Sally Collier, also urged against teachers predicting where grade boundaries will be set and warned schools about people offering to sell live papers on social media.

Almost all GCSEs, AS and A Levels taken in England this year will be under the reformed specifications.

Collier said it was “normal” for schools and colleges to see some variation in their year-on-year results, with changes in qualifications, as well as the ability mix of students, differing teaching approaches and changes in teaching staff all being contributing factors.

“Generally, when qualifications change, we expect that there might be more variation in school and college results,” she said.

“However, in 2017 and 2018 we saw normal levels of variation, including in those subjects that were reformed. We concluded that schools and colleges had coped well with the changes.

“But it is still possible that some schools and colleges could see more variation than usual this year.”

Schools leaders were also warned against predicting where grade boundaries will be set. Examiners set grade boundaries once marking is complete in order to compare how difficult the exam was compared to previous years.

“This method provides flexibility to account for changes in performance of the student cohort, so the proportion of grades awarded is not fixed,” Collier added.

“Despite this, we know that some people will try to predict where grade boundaries will be set. Please treat any such predictions with caution.

The letter also outlined concerns circulating on social media of people claiming to have copies of live papers and offering to sell them. School leaders were urged to remind students “not to be distracted by such claims, or to initiate them”.

Collier added: “Exam boards take such matters very seriously and any students found to be involved could face sanctions.”