The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 resulted in the unprecedented cancellation of A-Level exams and assessments across the country for this current academic year, a move which caused thousands of students to feel concern and uncertainty about their hopes and progress for the future.
The final grades which were subsequently issued to students on Thursday 13 August have been calculated using an algorithm devised by Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) and has seen approximately 40% of student grades falling short of the predicted grades provided by their teachers.
From the information that has so far been released, it is clear that some students will not have received the grades they would have achieved had they been able to sit their exams this summer. Whilst there will undoubtedly be a right of appeal, the criteria for appealing that was published just last week has also come under scrutiny and has since been removed by Ofqual for further consideration and consultation leaving many students in limbo. One area of concerns is that the appeal grounds do not appear to allow students to choose the grade calculated by their teachers, contrary to a commitment earlier made by the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson.
School and college leaders have also come forward to complain about anomalies in the methodology used by Ofqual, which appears to focus on moderating results across institutions and achieving consistency with last year’s results, rather than being student focused.
It is expected that thousands of students will lodge appeals if the Department for Education and/or Ofqual maintains the current grading methodology and/or limits the grounds of appeal to those which are unlikely to have an impact on the outcome of those appeals. In these circumstances, the appeal criteria itself could become the focus of a legal challenge.
As of 18th August, under increasing pressure from education leaders and the prospect of an imminent legal challenge to be brought by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, the government has now conceded teacher-assessed grades for A-levels and GCSEs, bringing England and Wales in line with Scotland. This is likely to represent a very good result for students and institutions, the latter having always maintained they had acted with integrity in calculating pupil grades in these unprecedented circumstances.
Author, Angela Sandhal is a public law solicitor at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, specialising in education law, equality law, children law, and mental capacity. She has in-depth knowledge and expertise in education law and is regularly instructed to handle complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. Her expertise extends to all aspects of education law and her clients include individuals, professional deputies and trustees, education and nursery establishments, and third sector organisations.
Contact Angela on 0113 487 3901 or at AngelaSa@duncanlewis.com
Duncan Lewis Education Law Solicitors
The education law specialists at Duncan Lewis Solicitors have in-depth knowledge and expertise concerning all aspects of education law, ranging from matters involving admissions and exclusions, special education needs, and complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, to discrimination claims, fitness to practice disputes, and claims and appeals to the First-tier Tribunal.
To contact a member of the education law team, call 033 3772 0409.