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Update on ongoing A level results situation: 16/8/20

The following message was sent to NAHT members from general secretary Paul Whiteman on 16/8/2020

The fiasco surrounding A-level results continues. NAHT has been careful with our public interventions. Increasingly the political Punch and Judy show has served to mitigate against finding the right solution. 

Just when we thought the situation could not get worse, further confusion and uncertainty has been created by the publishing and then withdrawal of Ofqual guidance on appeals. It is quite clear that the rules are being written and re-written on the hoof and the people that are suffering are the thousands of young people who have seen their future options narrow and disappear through no fault of their own.

Your feedback, along with the extensive media coverage we’ve seen shows that although there has been a rise in results overall there has been heartbreak for students whose results have been unfairly adjusted down. Although NAHT understood the desirability of a standardisation model in the exceptional circumstances this year, we consistently raised your concerns with Ofqual about the impact that too much weight being put onto the statistical data might have in causing disadvantage to centres and students. It is now clear the model has resulted in outcomes that are unjustifiable and unfair for some.

In this most challenging of years, the most important outcome for 2020 is that students get the results they deserve. The focus should be about finding solutions for those young people, not debating the rights and wrongs of a model to save political blushes. It is far too late for that.

The government has overseen the creation of a position where everyone will now be questioning the validity of their grades. System integrity has been lost.

School leaders and their teams did exactly what was asked of them in submitting centre assessed grades. No result should have been adjusted down by more than one grade. Anything other than that places undue weight on a statistical model over teacher professional judgement. Then a robust appeals system could have dealt with anomalies and unfairness.

This is still something which could happen if government and Ofqual automatically review those 25000 results which were 2 or more grades below the grades the centre submitted. This would immediately rectify the worst of the injustice and reduce the huge pressures which would be placed on schools and colleges to use the appeals system to do this. This would seem a sensible approach leaving the appeals system open to deal with fewer injustices faster.

The only other option available to government to deal with the situation is to rely solely on their student centre assessed grades. We can deal with the system impact in subsequent years.

The government needs to get a grip and take rapid and decisive action to restore confidence, fairness and stability both for young people that received their A-levels grades last week but also those receiving their GSCEs in the days to come.

There is no time to waste here, because A-level students need clarity immediately. And with GCSE results just days away many of the same issues will present themselves for year 11 students next Thursday if action is not taken.

We are making urgent representations to Government.

First published 16 August 2020