Just 195 of 5.7m teacher grades changed after exam board reviews

2020 grades appeals

Just 195 of 5.7 million GCSE and A-level teacher assessed grades (TAGS) were changed after being reviewed by exam boards last school year, new data reveals.

Ofqual has released its summer report this morning, showing how TAGs were quality assured after exams were cancelled in 2020-21.

Of the 195 teacher grades changed – which represents just 0.003 per cent of all GCSE, AS and A-level results handed out this summer – 179 decreased, while 16 increased (see graph below).

Students got record-breaking results this year. The proportion of students achieving three As or better at A-level more than doubled from the last time exams were held in 2019.

At GCSE, the proportion of grade 7s and above rose to 30 per cent from 22 per cent in 2019.

Just one in five schools and colleges had their evidence checked by exam boards in the last academic year to make sure grades were accurate.

Boards could not change a grade, but where quality assurance checks found they were not supported by evidence, schools were asked to revisit the results.

The grade changes were recorded across just 26 centres from the sample of 1,101 schools and colleges who had evidence checked.

Another 159 centres of those sampled were subject to “additional scrutiny”, and 133 had their original TAGs upheld following further examples from staff.

South of England saw most QA checks

Exam boards selected a sample of centres they would review, with some at random and others targeted.

Secondary schools made up 55 per cent of that sample. A further 18 per cent were independent and selective and 13 per cent were classed as “other”, which includes free schools.

One in five of the schools sampled were in the south east England and south London region, the most of any area, while just six per cent were in the north of England, the least.

In most cases, quality assurance concerns were resolved before results days. But two centres had their results withheld at A-level and six on GCSE results day.

Those centres have now either received grades or malpratice cases have concluded, meaning “almost all” students were able to “make decision about their next steps at the intended time”, Ofqual claimed.

Students given results early

Exam boards reported 28 security breaches to Ofqual this year, which all related to students being given their results early at 23 schools or colleges.

Students at 18 centres were told their results before results day, ranging from the point teacher grades were submitted to the exam boards to just before release.

This was down to failures in systems, for instance where TAGs were “either unwittingly stored in insecure areas of centres’ networks which students or their parents or carers could access”.

Another example was where automatic notifications were sent to students or their parents through centres’ software for tracking and sharing students’ progress.

Ofqual said in a “very small number of cases” teachers allegedly disclosed TAGs before results day and boards treated these as potential instances of malpractice or maladministration.

Cyber-attack risk

But there were fewer than five penalties issued to schools and colleges in 2021, down from 15 last year.

There were 295 penalties issued to students in 2021, up from 20 in 2020. Thirty-five penalties were issued to school or college staff, up from 25 in 2020.

Ninety five of these were for use of a mobile phone in an exam room, 65 were for using “unauthorised material” and 30 were for plagiarism.

Meanwhile, 77 centres were reported as having been potentially affected by a cyber-attack.

The exam boards put in place “alternative arrangements” to ensure they were able to submit grades, as well as flexibility on deadlines for schools that lost access to data.

Only 2 in 5 improve grades in autumn

An exam series was held this autumn for pupils who were unhappy with their teacher grade.

At A-level, just under 40 per cent improved their grade. Around 30 per cent achieved the same grade and another 30 per cent received a lower one.

For those that did not improve, summer grades can still be used. Autumn GCSE results day is February 24. For English and maths resits, it is January 13.

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