Ofqual not budging on plan for private candidates despite schools' 'reluctance' to offer grades

Pleas from parents of private candidates – such as home-schooled pupils – for changes to this year’s grading system so their children don’t miss out have been rejected by Ofqual.

During a consultation on this year’s calculated grade system, “many” private candidates told the regulator of a “reluctance” from their exam centres to provide an assessed grade and rank order position – and the impact this would have on their ability to progress to the next academic year.

In most cases, private candidates do not have a relationship with the school that is listed as their exam centre – they just attend to sit the exam paper.

But Ofqual confirmed today that, given the “lack of any credible alternatives identified”, exam boards will only be allowed to issue calculated grades to students where the head of centre has provided an assessed grade and ranked order.

It was one of two priority decisions published by the regulator today to give pupils, schools and colleges certainty “at the earliest opportunity”.

The second decision announced today is that grades will not be restricted by age or year group, meaning pupils in year 10 and below who were entered for GCSEs this summer can now get a grade. Exam boards will now be allowing schools to amend their entries.

Ofqual received 12,623 responses to its two-week consultation on plans to assess GCSEs and A-levels this summer, after exams were cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A full summary of responses will be published later this month.

On the issue of private candidates, Ofqual said alternatives suggested as part of its consultation were to issue GCSE students with a grade 4 so they could progress to A-levels or further education, or base their grade on the views of private tutors or parents.

But Ofqual said these would not allow “valid grades” to be issued.

Instead, they reiterated new guidance from exam boards that allows private candidates to transfer to a new exam centre.

However the regulator stated it recognised this “will not be appropriate for all candidates”, and it expects centres might “prioritise students who need a grade this summer for immediate progressions”.

But Ofqual added that, “given the lack of any credible alternatives identified by us, the exam boards or respondents to the consultation, and the need to make sure all grades are issued on a fair and robust basis, we have decided that, in line with our proposal, exam boards will only be allowed to issue calculated grades to students for whom a head of centre has provided a centre assessment grade and a position in the centre’s rank order”.