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Guidance for results days in 2020 (Welsh members)

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In any normal year, there can be great anxiety for students, parents, carers and education staff in and around results day. This year will be no different, but it will have the added complexity of the extraordinary situation for awarding grades, appeals and entries into the autumn series.

This document is intended as guidance to help members consider their options for dealing with issues that may arise. This document cannot offer definitive advice on issues relating to data protection or legal matters; these will require schools and colleges to seek the assistance of the relevant data protection or legal professionals, in line with their usual policies and procedures.

This document includes information from the regulator Qualifications Wales and the exam board WJEC. Further information on results and the processes mentioned in the guidance below can be found on the Qualifications Wales’ website or the WJEC’s website. 

Handing out results

Sharing Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) and rank orders with students

Appeals

Autumn series

University entry for 2020 A level students

Handing out results

Learners may be issued with their results from 8am on the publication of results day (Thursday). They must not receive results, by email, post or otherwise prior to 8am. 

Given the varying public health situation across the country, a key decision for schools and colleges will be how to organise results days. There are several options available:

  • Giving out results in person with suitable spaces organised to maintain social distancing and members of staff available to support and advise those students who need it
The benefits of this approach are that students can be congratulated in person on their achievements and it could help to provide some level of closure on the year that may have been missed during lockdown

The challenges of this approach include that it may necessitate more staff than usual, and it may be difficult to prevent groups of students gathering together and therefore maintain social distancing
  • Giving out results via post or email and planning for students to arrange a time to meet (in person or virtually) with a member of staff if they need help and advice on their next steps
The main benefit of this approach is that the challenges of social distancing and following public health requirements are largely avoided

There may be a logistical challenge, with many students wanting to speak to a member of staff, and this approach may necessitate staff being available for appointments with students over several days
  • A hybrid version with some students invited in to collect their results in person and others receiving their results by post or email
The positives of this approach are that it allows flexibility and for appropriate responses to the situation individual students find themselves in

One challenge with this approach is that it is likely that schools will invite in those students whose results are not as good as predicted so that they can talk through their options and be supported by staff in deciding their next steps. Students will realise this, so receiving an invitation to come into school on results day may mean they experience increased worry and stress.


Sharing Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) and rank orders with students

On results days, the following information, as applicable to the qualification, will be available on the WJEC’s secure website (Results >Centre Assessment Data – Results & Appeals) for each subject, with learners entered and for whom a centre assessment grade/rank order was submitted: 

  • the centre assessment grades used for standardisation purposes
  • the rank order data used for standardisation purposes
  • the historical grade distribution based on the school or college’s historical results by subject
  • final calculated grades for each learner following standardisation and a summary of the distribution of final grades by subject.

Further guidance will be available on results day (on the WJEC’s secure website) on accessing the names of the learners for whom historical results data was included at standardisation and the qualifications to which the results pertained and also the names of each of the learners, including from the 2020 cohort, for whom prior attainment data was included at the standardisation stage. 

The grades students receive on results day will be their calculated grades – the grades the exam board has calculated after applying Qualifications Wales standardisation procedure to the CAGs and rank orders submitted to them by schools and colleges.

It is possible that a student’s result in a subject may be different to the CAG your school or college submitted to the exam board. Students may wish to know their CAG, particularly if they are disappointed with a grade. As has always been the case, CAGs or rank orders cannot, under any circumstances, be shared with students, parents, carers or anyone outside the school or college before results day. Doing so would constitute malpractice and could lead to an investigation from the exam board.

Schools and colleges may disclose information to learners, where such a disclosure is compatible with their data protection and other legal requirements. 

The WJEC will, and schools and colleges may, only release personal data through a formal subject access request. For the WJEC, subject access requests can be made by completing our Access to Personal Data form, which is available on its website. Please note that providing the information to such request may take up to 30 days. Applications for appeals will not be accepted after 17 September even if a subject access request response has not been issued. 

Depending on what is asked for, a SAR may require a school or college to give students access to all data and information relating to them and their CAG. This could be a significant burden for schools and colleges when, in many instances, it is possible that the student only really wanted to know the CAG that was submitted to the exam board.

It would, therefore, be sensible to plan for what to do if a student asks to know their CAG on or after results day because it could avoid the lengthier process of preparing all documents, data and emails relating to the student and their CAG. For school and college leaders, this is an opportunity to put a plan in place and communicate this clearly to teachers, lecturers and other education staff. As explained above, students will have access to CAG and other key pieces of information on results day via the WJEC’s secure website, so be sure to make that clear.

Your school or college should have, or have access to, a data protection officer (DPO), and it is strongly advisable to talk to your DPO (if your school or college does not have their own, you should have access to one in your local authority or trust) in advance of results day to ensure you are compliant with data protection law and that all staff know what they need to do.

Individual members of staff should not be expected to deal with any type of request for information themselves, even if they are the one who taught the student in question. It is the responsibility of the school or college to provide the information to the student, not of the individual member of staff. To avoid putting staff in a potentially awkward position and to ensure a consistent approach, it would be advisable to ensure all staff know who to pass a request on to, in advance of results day, and to prepare for how the school or college will respond. This could include preparing a template letter or email to ensure students’ requests are responded to in a consistent manner.

It is important to know what specifically the student has asked for to be able to fulfil the request accurately. If students make a SAR, the law requires they are made in writing, so staff will be able to pass this on. If they simply ask for their CAG and/or rank order verbally, it may be prudent to ask staff to write down what was said. Make sure all staff are clear about the specific information to pass on, such as whether the CAG or rank order was asked for and in which subject or subjects.

There is a further complexity with the rank orders that were submitted in each subject; in giving information to students, schools and colleges must be sure that this does not reveal information about other students. In most circumstances, it seems reasonable that telling a student only what their CAG was should not reveal information about other students.

However, given the size of the cohort in any given subject, there may be circumstances in which revealing the position in the rank order that a certain student was placed, may reveal information about the rankings of other students. An extreme example would be any subject for which the centre has only entered two candidates. Revealing the rank order of one of the candidates would enable that candidate to deduce the rank order of the other easily.

This is something that would need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. The law is such that if it does not reveal information about other candidates, then it is a student’s right to know that information if they ask for it.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which is the UK authority who deal with matters relating to data protection, has prepared guidance that gives factual information about how this year’s extraordinary circumstances relate to the law.

You can find this guidance here.

Appeals

Due to the changes to the process in awarding grades this summer, the standard post-results services do not apply, and instead, an exceptional appeals process has been agreed with our regulators. This means that for the summer 2020 series, the current JCQ’s document ‘A guide to the awarding bodies appeals processes’ will only apply to appeals against malpractice decisions and reviews against other administrative decisions. 

For appeals against summer 2020 results, the processes explained in the ‘JCQ’s guide to the awarding bodies’ appeals processes June 2020 examination series’ apply. We advise that this document should be read together with the guidance in this booklet prior to submitting an appeal.

i)     Schools and colleges internal appeals procedures

Schools and colleges must have in place arrangements that allow learners to apply to them to request relevant information in respect of their results. The internal appeals procedure must allow for appeals against a decision by the school or college not to submit an appeal on behalf of a learner. Learners must be notified of the school or college’s internal appeals arrangements

ii)    The WJEC’s appeal process and deadlines

There are two stages to the summer 2020 appeals process. The first stage is referred to as an ‘initial review’, and the second stage is referred to as an ‘independent review’.

Initial review

  • Applications for an initial review may be submitted from the date of the relevant publication of results day. The final date for receiving applications for an initial review is Thursday 17 September 2020. Any applications or requests received after this date will not be accepted.
  • The WJEC will aim to complete initial reviews within 42 calendar days of the receipt of the application. Where university places are pending, centres should submit applications as soon as possible after the publication of results. There is no priority service for summer 2020 due to the exceptional arrangements and circumstances. Learners should inform their centre as quickly as possible if they consider that an error has been made in awarding their final grade.

Schools and colleges must submit applications for an initial review on the WJEC’s secure website. Further guidance on how to submit an application for an initial review will be available on the WJEC’s secure website prior to the issuing of results. 

The appeals process

  1. On receipt of an application for an initial review, the WJEC will undertake an administrative check to ensure that the appeal:
    • meets the grounds of the appeals criteria
    • is supported by sufficient and appropriate evidence
    • is authorised by the head of centre.
  2. The appeal will be accepted for initial review if it meets the criteria in the bullet points above. If an application is not accepted, the centre will be informed of the reason(s). If an appeal is not accepted, a new application which meets the requirements in the bullet points above may be submitted provided that it is within the deadline

  3. If accepted, an initial review will be conducted

  4. The WJEC will inform the school or college about whether the initial review has been upheld or not. The outcome letter will document the reasons for the decision

  5. If the school or college considers that an error remains after the outcome of the initial review has been issued, an application may be submitted through the WJEC’s secure website for an independent review within 14 calendar day of the initial review outcome

    Independent review

  6. Applications for an independent review will include an administrative check to ensure that the appeal:
    • has already been considered at the initial review stage and the outcome letter has been issued
    • is authorised by the head of centre
    • has been submitted within the 14-calendar day deadline.
  7. The WJEC will inform the school or college if the independent review has been accepted or not. If accepted, the date for the independent review will be confirmed, and the evidence to be presented to the independent decision-maker will be provided to the centre. If not accepted, the school or college will be informed of the reason(s). If an appeal is not accepted, a new application which meets the requirements may be submitted provided that it is within the deadline

  8. The WJEC will aim to complete the independent review within 42 calendar days of receipt of the application. The outcome letter will document the reasons for the decision

  9. The independent review is the last stage of the WJEC’s appeals process. The school/college will be informed of the appropriate regulator’s Exams Procedure Review Service (EPRS) appeals process.
If an error is identified at any stage during the appeals process, the WJEC will take action to correct/mitigate any errors.

iii)   Grounds of appeal
An application for an appeal may be submitted on one or more of the following grounds:

School or college error
  • The school or college made an administrative error in the centre assessment grades or rank order information submitted.
WJEC error in calculating or issuing results
  • The WJEC used an incorrect data set for statistical standardisation
  • The WJEC introduced an error into the data set
  • The WJEC made an administrative error in issuing a result.
Exceptional circumstances

Procedural grounds

  • The WJEC did not apply its standardisation or appeals procedures consistently, or the procedures were not followed properly and fairly.
NB Schools and colleges are asked to check that there are no errors in the centre’s data prior to submitting an appeal on other grounds.


An appeal on the grounds of centre error, WJEC data error or exceptional circumstances will include a procedural review.

Appeals cannot be made on the following grounds:

  • a learner disagrees with their centre assessment grade and/or position in the rank order
  • professional judgements have been revisited or revised
  • disagreement with the standardisation model
  • the school or college’s performance has been improving, and learners may have achieved better results this summer than previous cohorts.

Autumn series

 

Learners will have an opportunity to take exams in future series. 

In addition to the standard GCSE November series for English language, mathematics, mathematics – numeracy and Welsh language, for the WJEC’s Eduqas GCE and GCSE specifications, Extended Project and Level 3 Applied Certificates and Diplomas, there is an opportunity to take other exams and assessments in October/November. 

For the WJEC’s Level 1/2 Vocational Awards and other vocational qualifications, there is an opportunity to take exams and assessments in the January 2021 series. Please refer to the WJEC’s website for further details. 

The entry deadlines for exams taking place in October/November are as follows: 

 

  • Eduqas AS, A level, extended project and Level 3 Applied Certificates and Diplomas: 4 September 2020                        
  • Eduqas GCSE, except English language, mathematics, mathematics – numeracy and Welsh language: 18 September 2020
  • WJEC GCSE in English language, mathematics, mathematics – numeracy and Welsh language:4 October 2020

 

 

Schools and colleges will need to consider the number of students sitting exams in the autumn and plan how this will operate alongside the timetable for the rest of their students, in the context of the potential health and safety measures that will need to be in place.

University entry for 2020 A level students

 

The fact that A level students will be able to sit exams in the autumn series if they are not happy with their results this summer has potential impacts for those with a place at university. The results for A levels taken in the autumn series will be issued before Christmas, and so we have been asking whether universities will take in students who choose to sit in October onto their courses in January.

Our understanding is that universities' decisions may vary by institution, department and individual course. We understand that many universities think it would be problematic for students to start an undergraduate programme in January 2021; however, this will not always be the case, so we would advise students to make contact with their prospective university before deciding to sit exams in October.