In May of this year, we released guidance on how students were to be graded this summer, and what families and students ought to do before their grades were submitted.
Ahead of A-Level Results Day on 10 August, here we provide a simple guide on what students and their families ought to know about Results Day and how the English appeal system will work.
Worthwhile appeals are worthwhile
In England last year 80% of AS/A Level appeals were successful and 92% of these successful appeals resulted in at least one grade being improved. Although an appeal can result in a grade being decreased, increased or staying the same, if your child has a valid reason to appeal, they should consider doing so.
How were grades determined this year?
- A student's grade was decided by teacher judgement, with grades signed off by the relevant head of department and the head teacher before being submitted to the exam board/awarding organisation. The school had to follow guidance when determining the grades.
- A range of evidence would have been used, such as mocks, in-class tests, homework and work your child has already done, along with non-exam assessments / coursework. The school should have attempted to use the same sources of evidence for everyone in the class and the evidence should have been specific to the subject.
Appeal Key Dates
- 10 August 2021: A/AS Level Results Day
- 10 August – 16 August 2021: Priority Appeal Students are students applying to higher education who did not attain their firm choice (i.e. the offer they accepted as their first choice). Priority Appeal Students can request a Centre Review (explained below) Schools will set a deadline for accepting requests for a Centre Review (which will be at some point within this window of time). Priority Appeal Students should ask their school what this deadline is (if the school has not made it clear) and must then request a Centre Review by that deadline. The earlier a Centre Review is requested, the better.
- 20 August 2021: For priority appeals, the school must have finished the Centre Review.
- 23 August 2021: For priority appeals, if the student requests it, the school must have submitted an appeal to the exam board/awarding organisation.
- 10 August – 3 September 2021: Non-priority appeal students can request a Centre Review. Schools will set a deadline within this window of time for non-priority appeal students to request a Centre Review and students should ask what the deadline is if their school has not made it clear. Centre Reviews must be requested by that deadline and, again, the earlier a Centre Review is requested, the better.
- 10 September 2021: For non-priority appeals, the school must have finished the Centre Review.
- 17 September 2021: For non-priority appeals, if the student requests it, the school must have submitted an appeal to the exam board/awarding organisation.
Grounds of Appeal
The JCQ guidance specifies four different grounds for appeal:
- Administrative error by school: for instance the school submitted the wrong grade or used an incorrect assessment mark as evidence etc.
- Administrative error by exam board/awarding organisation: for example, it incorrectly changed the grade during processing.
- Procedure failure: the school did not follow a procedure correctly. This includes not taking into account special circumstances or not following its own Centre Policy (the policy each school must create and abide by in determining students' grades).
- Unreasonable exercise of academic judgment: the school made an unreasonable exercise of academic judgment in:
- choosing the evidence to base the grade on; and/or in
- determining the grade on the basis of that evidence.
A teacher’s judgement will only be considered unreasonable if no teacher acting reasonably could have reached the same judgement. For instance, a selection of evidence completely excludes one or more assessment objectives without justification or the student's performance evidence clearly indicates a higher grade.
Stages of Appeal
- Student to request Centre Review: If your child feel their grade is wrong, they should request a Centre Review. They may be asked to fill out a form to do so.
- Stage 1: Centre Review. For the grade(s) your child thinks is/are wrong, the school must check if they made any administrative error or procedural failure. The school is not allowed to decide if they made an unreasonable exercise of academic judgment – this will be for the exam board/awarding organisation to decide at Stage 2.
- Student receives outcome letter: Once the school has completed its Centre Review, it must tell your child what it found, the reason for the finding, if there was a grade change, the reason why the grade did or did not change and information on next steps.
- Student to request Awarding Organisation Appeal: If your child still believes the grade is wrong, they should tell the school as soon as possible that they want to appeal. When deciding what grounds to appeal upon, remember the more grounds submitted, the longer it could take. However, if more than one ground is valid, they should all be noted. The school must then submit the appeal (even if they believe the grade is correct) and must provide the exam board/awarding organisation with the required supporting evidence.
- Stage 2: The Awarding Organisation Appeal. It will evaluate the grade(s) in light of the relevant ground(s) of appeal.
- Ofqual Review Request: If your child remains concerned that there is a procedural error that neither Stage 1 nor Stage 2 accepted, an Ofqual review can be requested.
On Results Day, what should you do?
- We have all been there – it can be intimidating getting your results, and the temptation for some students is to collect theirs later in the day. It is important that results are collected at the start of the day, to give your child as much of the day to respond to any incorrect results they may receive.
- Have the contact details of your university admissions office to hand. Your child will want to contact them urgently, if unhappy with their results.
- The school must provide your child the following information, and we suggest your child reviews this in advance of Results Day if they currently have it. If they do not yet have it, your child should request the following from the school as soon as possible:
- the policy it applied in determining your child's grade (the Centre Policy);
- the evidence the school used in determining your child's grade;
- (if relevant) the details of how your child's special circumstances (any extenuating circumstances or reasonable adjustments) were taken into account; and
- any 'request and consent form' that your child will need to use if they wish to appeal.
- Together (a) to (d) is "the Information".
If your child thinks their grade(s) is/are wrong or they fail to meet their University offer's requirements:
- Pause: your child should pause and remember that nothing is set in stone. They will need to be calm and considered for the next few days, and focus on next steps - now is the time to be pro-active.
- Evaluate: is there any reason to believe there is something wrong with the grade(s) given? The Information should now be reviewed with this in mind.
- University: if your child's preferred University offer's grades are now not met, your child should contact the University admissions office as soon as possible. When doing so, they should (i) explain the situation; (ii) ask if flexibility can be shown towards their offer; and (iii) if flexibility is not possible, request that the University place is held while the appeal process is ongoing.
- Appeal: your child should now contact the school and ask for a Centre Review, to kick start the appeal process. If they could be defined as a Priority Appeal Student, they should be clear with the school that their appeal is to fall within the priority appeal process.
We wish your child all the best for Results Day, and hope they obtain the results they hope for and deserve. If not, there is a clear pathway to appeal any grades they consider to be wrong and we would recommend they pursue this option if they can point to at least one of the grounds of appeal.
If you would like any advice in relation to this year's exam grades, please contact a member of the Education Group.