Student anger grows over A-levels as exams regulator Ofqual suspends appeals policy

Students have pledged to hold the government to account over the A-level results row as the exams regulator for England dramatically suspended its policy on mock exam appeals.

Around 280,000 students saw their grades fall by one grade or more following the introduction of a new algorithm, which was put in place after the coronavirus lockdown led to exams being cancelled.

But students have been left furious by the new system, with many losing their places on their chosen courses after not meeting the required grades.

In a new development, exams regulator Ofqual released a statement late on Saturday saying its criteria for students hoping to challenge their A-level grades on the basis of their mock exam results was “being reviewed” by its board.

It came just hours after Ofqual published guidance about its appeals process announced by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Ofqual said in a statement: “Earlier today we published information about mock exam results in appeals. This policy is being reviewed by the Ofqual Board and further information will be published in due course.”

Guidance issued earlier said that any student whose calculated grade is lower than their mock grade can appeal to have their grade changed.

Labour has accused the education secretary of backtracking on assurances given to students about the appeals process.

Mr Williamson gave a “triple lock” commitment that students could use the highest result out of their teacher’s predicted grade, their mock exam or sitting the actual exam in the autumn.

However, in its original guidance Ofqual said that if the mock result was higher than the teacher’s prediction, it was the teacher’s prediction which would count.

The regulator said while mock exams did not usually cover the full range of content, the assessments took into account a student’s performance across the whole course.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “Gavin Williamson promised to give students a triple lock, but instead he left many devastated by unfair exam results, and now his commitment to give them another chance is rapidly unravelling.”

Noor Abdin (left) and Safaa Badar said they were left angry by the exam result row

Many youngsters gathered in London’s Hyde Park on Saturday for another day of protests.

Safaa Badar, who saw two of her A-level grades fall under the new system, warned the government that students won’t vote for the Conservatives at the next election due to the impact the controversy has had on their futures.

She told Sky News: “I hope they consider the fact that we are the next voters, we’ve now turned 18, absolutely the government will be scrutinised, they will be held accountable for their actions.

“In no way we will be tolerating this… The entire situation is chaos.”

Her friend Noor Abdain added: “The system the government used for this has completely disregarded our abilities and everything we’ve been working towards for the last two years.

“This is not what we deserve and the government needs to come up with a better system. They’ve not considered at all what this is going to do to many young people going into society, we’re the next generation.”

The government has confirmed schools in England will be able to appeal against A-level and GCSE grades for free.

State-funded schools and colleges will also be able to claim back the cost of unsuccessful appeals as well as fees for autumn exams, the Department for Education said.

Students in Wales will also be able to appeal against their A-level grades if they are lower than teachers’ predictions.

The Welsh government announced the plan following outcry over 42% of all A-level grades in the country being lowered during the moderation process.

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