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Students delight as downgraded A Level results are scrapped

People in a peaceful protest yesterday in Parliament Square, London, in response to the downgrading of A-level results. Pic: PA Photo

by Priya Gulraj, Eyleen Gomez and agencies

Students have expressed their relief at seeing their A-Level grades changed after a UK Government scrapped results based on algorithm devised by regulator Ofqual in favour of teacher’s assessments.

Students in Bayside School, Westside School and the Gibraltar College were among tens of thousands who saw their final results downgraded under this new Centre Assessment Grades system.

The downgrades saw some local students miss out on their first choice universities and UK wide almost 40% of grades had been reduced from teachers’ predictions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had previously defended the “robust” system, with Mr Williamson apologising for the distress caused by the handling of the process.

“This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for young people who were unable to take their exams,” Mr Williamson said.

“We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process.

“We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results.”

Students who were awarded a higher grade by the moderation process will be allowed to keep it, but for many pupils, their teachers’ predictions could see their grades increased.

The change will also apply to GCSE results, which are due to be released this Thursday.

STUDENTS’ RELIEF

Bayside School pupil Alexandra Lester missed out on the opportunity to study English Literature at the University of St Andrews after receiving an A in English Literature, a B in Geography and a B in History.

Monday’s announcement means Ms Lester will now qualify to go to St Andrews after the grades have risen to an A*, A and A.

Speaking to the Chronicle, Ms Lester said she will continue with her plans to go study at the University of Birmingham instead next month.

“I am just so happy, but it is such a shame that everyone had to go through these days of stress and protests,” Ms Lester said.

“I still went out to celebrate like Thursday because at the end of the day I did get good grades, but they were not the grades that I wanted.”

“I am glad to now put this whole thing behind me but I would have held on to that annoyance and unfairness at not getting the grades I worked so hard for.”

For Hannah Khan, of Westside School, last week’s results were devastating.

She was hoping to be awarded an A in Biology, a B in Chemistry and an A in Psychology. Instead she was given a B in Biology and a C in Chemistry that led to a day of panic and stress when she would otherwise be celebrating her achievements.

And although Ms Khan was still accepted to go to the University of Nottingham to study veterinary medicine, she was informed she would still be allowed on the course if she sat an extra foundation year.

“I was in a real shock because I was prepared to go study for a five-year course, not a six-year course,” she told the Chronicle.

“I have never been a C student and in a run up to results day I was so worried this would happen to me and it did.”

“I am over the moon to receive the results I have worked for and I have already been in touch with the school to send a letter to the university with my official grades to see if I can still switch to the five-year degree course.”

Zoe McKnight was relieved to see her results climb up after she received a C for Biology, a B for English Literature and a B for Physics. She was predicted an A for Biology and an A for English Literature.

“This was particularly hard for me to accept because I am due to go to Kingston University to study Biological Science and that’s the subject I got the worst result for,” she said.

“And after hearing the news and the way that the grades were calculated, it just made me question the political and educational system completely, especially in the mess of results and the whole situation.”

“This is an awful thing to put everyone through and it has really made me lose faith in the system.”

After seeing the news today, Ms McKnight was relieved to see the turnaround by the UK Government.

“We are finally going to get the results that we have worked so hard for, and I am feeling so happy,” she said.

GCSE students who were due to collect their results this Thursday will see their results based on their teachers’ predictions.

Alicia Fernandes, 16, described the relief she felt at hearing this news.

“We have worked extremely hard over the last two to three years and our teachers know us, how we've progressed and the grades that we deserve to get, which is something that the algorithm would've never been able to match,” she said.

“Although it was said that the teacher's predictions were inflated, I think that they're qualified professionals who should be listened to and trusted instead of being ignored, especially after all the work they've put into giving us our predicted grades.”

“That's why I prefer the new method over the algorithm that would've unfairly downgraded and put most students at a disadvantage.”

Meanwhile 16-year old, James Rosado said: “I feel relieved about the UK Government's decision to base our GCSE results on teachers' predicted grades.”

“I believe this is much fairer as our teachers have been with us throughout the two years’ of study and realistically know what we are capable of, unlike an algorithm.”

“I personally agree that I would have achieved the grades I have been predicted because they have been based on evidence such as mock results and class assessments.”

“I believe this is the best method the Government could have used, considering the limited time frame, however I am concerned about the potential discrimination my year could face from future employers as some perceive teachers' predicted grades to be too lenient.”

“At the end of the day, I think more trust should be afforded to teachers who know their student's better than anyone else. Their predictions have been based on their professional judgement, which should ultimately be respected.”

“I am more relieved about the change as I trust my teachers judgement more than Ofqual's considering what already happened to GCSE's and A-Levels,” Oliver Cox, 16, said.

Meanwhile Roseanna Warne, 16, said she was very pleased and relieved with this last minute change.

“I believe these results will be the closest possible estimate as to what I would have achieved had the exams taken place as normal because they are based on evidence such as mock exam results and they will not be unfairly downgraded by an algorithm,” she said.

“I consider this decision to be the best one possible in this situation.”

“Our teachers have spent a lot of time and effort into giving us a fair grade which we deserve, they are the ones who know what we are capable of and so I believe their predicted grades are the fairest possible solution.”

GOVERNMENT REACTION

The Government of Gibraltar welcomed the recognition by the UK Government of Centre Assessed Grades.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo took to Twitter where he said: “Excellent news and fairer. We will now no longer see appeals pursued by distressed youngsters. I congratulate all our students on their final grades, awarded more fairly based on the assessments of teachers who know them better than a remote algorithm.”

In a statement, the Gibraltar Government said: “This is very good news for many students who felt hard done by with the grades originally awarded to them.”

“This has been a hard year for students, parents and educators. The experience with the initial A-Level was clearly going to get even worse with GCSEs.”

“This mechanism now ensures that students will now be awarded grades assessed by those closest to their work and with the deepest understanding of each student’s ability.”

“In Gibraltar, we will therefore no longer have to fund appeals or recognise the CAGs for the purposes of awarding the status of Gibraltar Scholars.”

“The Government now extends its congratulations to all A-Level students on the basis of their final grades which will now be the grades they were awarded by their teachers.”

“Her Majesty's Government of Gibraltar considers that this solution is a fairer and more equitable solution given the number of unfair situations which had come to the attention of the Government in the past days.”

OFQUAL

Ofqual chairman, Roger Taylor, apologised for the “uncertainty and anxiety” caused by the fiasco.

“There was no easy solution to the problem of awarding exam results when no exams have taken place,” he said.

“Ofqual was asked by the Secretary of State to develop a system for awarding calculated grades, which maintained standards and ensured that grades were awarded broadly in line with previous years.”

“Our goal has always been to protect the trust that the public rightly has in educational qualifications.”

“But we recognise that while the approach we adopted attempted to achieve these goals, we also appreciate that it has also caused real anguish and damaged public confidence.”

“Expecting schools to submit appeals where grades were incorrect placed a burden on teachers when they need to be preparing for the new term and has created uncertainty and anxiety for students. For all of that, we are extremely sorry.”