In March 2020, Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson announced that students would have the opportunity to re-sit GCSE and A Level examinations if they were unhappy with their Centre Assessed Grades (CAG) that were awarded in August 2020 (Williamson, 2020). At Hi-R, we were keen to find out more about the proposed changes, especially the impact they had on students, and concerns they had about the upcoming period. In a separate investigation into how the Department of Education has handled the awarding of grades in the August 2020 period titled ‘Predicting Futures 2.0’, Dr Suriyah Bi reminds us of the importance of working with and for local communities, and most importantly, understanding our communities as a source and form of empowerment (Bi, 2020: PG10). Following Dr. Bi’s decolonial and feminist anthropological approach to our work, we also wanted to (re)center the voices and perspectives of students who may have felt isolated and invisible.
We adopted a mixed-methods approach (qualitative and quantitative) by creating and sharing a Microsoft Form which allowed resitting students to tell us what subjects they are resitting and any concerns they had about this examination period. The structure of this article is as follows: the first section will look at the respondents who reported back to us and the data we ascertained about their concerns. The second section will provide you with key points about what your rights are as a student during this period. Our sources are directly from official Government briefings and/or are also involving Government Ministers. And lastly, there is a recommendation section based on our findings and what you as students can be doing to best prepare yourselves during this period.
1.0 Respondent Data
We had a total of 7 respondents (4 females & 3 males).
86% of our respondents are from Year 13.
100% of our respondents were contacting us regarding A Levels.
100% our respondents were resitting core subjects.
For the purposes of this article, core subjects refer to Mathematics, English Language & Literature and Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics).
Respondent Concerns – Key Themes
Our respondents reported concerns around the below areas:
Timing of Exam Periods – Some students felt that there was not sufficient time to revise.
Grade Boundaries – Concerns about lack of clarity regarding grade mark boundaries and how high these will be.
Leniency from UK Universities – Some respondents aired concerns about how universities themselves would act considering the assessment period.
Self-isolating during exams – Given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, students felt that the planning around self-isolation was not clearly explained.
Know Your Rights – What Do These Policy Changes Mean for Students?
In accordance with the Government Guidance, a ‘school’ or ‘college’ is defined as one of the below:
State Funded Schools
Further Education, Sixth Form, and Tertiary Colleges
Independent Training Providers
Adult and Community Learning Providers
Private Exam Centres
You and/or your family do not need to pay for the exams:
It has always been the case that resits before the COVID-19 Pandemic were paid for by the student themselves. The Department for Education has clearly stated that due to the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic that,
"We [DFE] expect schools and colleges to pay fees for all students who were due to sit the exams in the summer, rather than passing the cost on to students or their families” (Department of Education, 2020).
Clarity Around Marking Boundaries:
Ofqual have confirmed that to ensure fairness and consistency, they are
“working with exam boards to carry forward the generosity from summer 2020 grades, the majority of which were based on centre assessment grades” (Ofqual, 2020).
If you are self-isolating, shielding or awaiting COVID-19 test results:
Given the nature of the pandemic, this is a common question and concern. The Department for Education have stated that:
“Those candidates who take less than the minimum necessary assessments and therefore cannot be awarded a grade in the autumn series will have the option to enter exams in summer 2021” (Ofqual, 2020).
If you are a disabled student and worried about reasonable adjustments:
If you are a disabled student, your school and college that registered you for the Summer 2020 examinations will have responsibility for ensuring that any reasonable adjustments are recorded accordingly (Department of Education, 2020).
Are you still being charged administrative costs with regards to the Autumn resits? You have the right to get advice by contacting the DFE Helpline on 0370 000 2288 (Monday - Friday 9AM -5PM);
Remember that the highest grade is carried forward from either the Autumn or the Summer Examinations.
If you are applying for Universities, please make sure that you keep up to date with your prospective universities’ admissions teams (and UCAS). Make sure you call them and email them for advice;
We support Dr Bi’s recommendation that the Department of Education should provide extra mentoring, work opportunities, and skills workshops tailored to young people who have been adversely affected by the allocation of grades and missed out progressing further within Education (Further & Higher Education) and employment (Bi, 2020: PG55);
Additionally, in line with Dr Bi’s recommendations, we also strongly advise that Universities across the UK prioritise those students who have been adversely impacted and have adjusted admissions processes and policies to recognise this impact on students (Bi, 2020: PG56).
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