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How GCSE/A-level grades are calculated this year – and why your final result may differ from your teacher’s

PUBLISHED: 11:34 11 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:22 11 August 2020

Social distancing as a result of coronavirus means the usual results day celebrations for A-levels and GCSEs cannot take place in many places.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Social distancing as a result of coronavirus means the usual results day celebrations for A-levels and GCSEs cannot take place in many places. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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With school pupils unable to take GCSE and A-level exams this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, results have had to be calculated differently.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Mary Evans, said there was a great deal of pragmatism and acknowledgement that results would be different this year. Picture: GREGG BROWNSuffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Mary Evans, said there was a great deal of pragmatism and acknowledgement that results would be different this year. Picture: GREGG BROWN

How are grades calculated this year?

The Department for Education has put in place a complex system for coming up with final grades, using additional measures to “standardise” grades so they are broadly in line with previous years.

But it means that some students – particularly those on the borderline of two grades – are likely to get a different grade to that which their teacher gives them.

Outlined below is the process:

1 – Teachers give each pupil a grade based on classwork, homework, mock exams, coursework or other relevant indicators

2 – They are then required to rank the students within each grade boundary

3 – “Standardisation” measures are then used by exam boards, based on three indicators – the school’s previous performance in that subject, the prior attainment of the cohort of students this year compared to previous years, and the school or college results in previous years.

MORE: How grades are calculated mapped by Ofqual



What does the grade calculations method mean for students?

It means that students who are given a C grade by their teacher but are ranked at the bottom of the grade boundary could find themselves with a D grade once the standardisation occurs.

Mark Bennett, head of performance partnership and development with Suffolk County Council’s education team, said: “The majority of students will get what they need for the next stages of their education, either though the grades awarded or through using the teacher assessments in conversations with providers of the next stage of their education.

“But there will be children who are going to get grades lower than the teacher assessment.

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“They might think, quite rightly, I have been teacher assessed for a Grade 5 and I have been given a Grade 4 result but I think I should have a Grade 5.”

Will universities and colleges accept lower grades?

Mr Bennett said it was expected that universities, colleges and sixth forms would have a degree of flexibility this year and acknowledge that some students will have lower grades than their teacher assessments, allowing them to accept pupils who may not get the grades.

However, the education team confirmed this would be up to the discretion of individual institutions and may also depend on other factors such as the number of applicants for those courses.

It is hoped that students may be able to demonstrate that their teacher assessments before the grades are standardised will be enough to gain a place at their preferred next stage of education if that is what they are pursuing.

Are exams an option this year?

For others, exams can be sat later in the year – expected to be late October for A-levels and early November for GCSEs.

Mr Bennett said: “The students can choose either of the results, so if they don’t do as well in the exam they can still take that initial result [given this summer] so there is really nothing to lose for them, other than having to do a bit of revision. We are probably going to see quite a large number of children doing that.”

Cabinet member for education, Mary Evans, said: “Everybody understands why it is different this year – this is not just a localised thing that has happened in Suffolk, it has happened to every school, every college, and every university will know this is a very strange period.

“There is a huge understanding that this cohort of young people who would have been taking exams have had a very disrupted last piece of education.

“There will be great pragmatism from everybody to make this work as best as possible to help these young people move on and reach their full potential.”

Check back on the EADT and Ipswich Star websites later this week for a comprehensive guide on what to do if you or your child don’t get the grades anticipated and the options open to you.


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