Everything you need to know about GCSE results in the wake of the A level crisis

Monday, 17th August 2020, 3:08 pm
Updated Monday, 17th August 2020, 3:08 pm
Students hold placards as they take part in a protests over exam results (Getty Images)

The government is facing calls to delay the release of GCSE results as the A level results crisis intensifies.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson are both facing increasing scrutiny from voices within their own party over their handling of the release of exam results, after thousands of pupils had their grades downgraded. 

Lord Baker who introduced the GCSE system is now calling for a delay to the release of results, in order to allow grades decided by an algorithm which used the previous academic performance of schools to be adjusted

Thousands of students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to receive their GCSE results on Thursday 20 August, after this summer’s exams were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Will the release of GCSE results be delayed?

Despite criticism, the government looks set to go ahead with the release of GCSE results on Thursday. Ministers and regulator Ofqual have reportedly informed MPs that they will address the issues following the outcry, but will stop short of delaying the release of results. 

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said, "We recognise that many people are concerned and anxious about the exam grading system. We will not be delaying GCSE results."

There is increased pressure to implement a delay, however, and this government has previously shown that it is not averse to U-turning on major decisions. 

Speaking on Monday 17 August, Conservative MP Stephen Hammond suggested that delaying GCSE results day “probably is the right thing to do.”

“I am increasingly thinking that Lord Baker is probably correct,” he told Sky News.

“I think one would have expected them (Ofqual) to have had that sorted out by now, but if it’s not, taking another two weeks or another week to get that right rather than causing stress - that so much has been caused to young people who have taken A-levels this year - would be something that we should certainly consider, and probably is the right thing to do.”

Northern Ireland to provide teacher predicted grades

GCSE students in Northern Ireland will be awarded the grades predicted by their teachers.

Just days before the results were due to be published, Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir scrapped a plan that would have had grades calculated using a mathematical model that took into account the past performance of schools.

How does the algorithm work?

Criticism has been levelled at the government since the release of A level results when thousands of students revealed lower than expected results. An algorithm had been used to decide the results of pupils, in place of a standard exam.

The algorithm uses two key pieces of information to generate the results of a pupil - the ranking of students by ability, and the historical performance of a school or college. 

The aim of the algorithm was to accurately imitate the results of previous years, but many have deemed the method as unfair. For instance, a high achiever at a poorly performing school could be punished for their school’s previous performance, while schools with consistent and positive track records are rewarded.

Criticising the Government’s handling of the algorithm, England’s Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said, “It is notable that other countries in Europe have managed to find better, more creative and fairer ways than the UK of replacing or managing final school examinations during Covid-19.

“In due course, I hope the Government and Ofqual will consider the injustices that occur when the efforts, talents and dreams of children are considered to be reducible to the output from a statistical model.”