Student anger grows over A-levels as date set for appeals process to begin

Students have pledged to hold the government to account over the A-level results row, with thousands left disappointed by their grades told they will be able to start submitting appeals from Monday.

Around 280,000 students saw their grades fall by one grade or more following the introduction of a new algorithm, which was put in place after the coronavirus lockdown led to exams being cancelled.

But students have been left furious by the new system, with many losing their places on their chosen courses after not meeting the required grades.

Many youngsters gathered in Hyde Park on Saturday for another day of protests, as exam regulator Ofqual confirmed the appeals process announced by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson would begin on Monday.

Ophelia Gregory organised the protest in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoon
Image: Ophelia Gregory organised the protest in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoon

Safaa Badar, who saw two of her A-level grades fall under the new system, warned the government that students won’t vote for the Conservatives at the next election due to the impact the controversy has had on their futures.

She told Sky News: “I hope they consider the fact that we are the next voters, we’ve now turned 18, absolutely the government will be scrutinised, they will be held accountable for their actions.

“In no way we will be tolerating this… The entire situation is chaos.”

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Her friend Noor Abdain added: “The system the government used for this has completely disregarded our abilities and everything we’ve been working towards for the last two years.

“This is not what we deserve and the government needs to come up with a better system. They’ve not considered at all what this is going to do to many young people going into society, we’re the next generation.”

Noor Abdin (left) and Safaa Badar said they were left angry by the exam result row
Image: Noor Abdain (left) and Safaa Badar said they were left angry by the exam result row

Students have expressed scepticism over how useful appealing might be, with those unhappy with their grades confirmed to be able to have their mock results or non-exam assessment marks used instead.

The appeals process will apply to GCSE, AS and A-level students, as well as Extended Project Qualification and Advanced Extension Award in maths. GCSE results day is on Thursday.

Guidance issued by Ofqual also states that any student whose calculated grade is lower than their mock grade can appeal to have their grade changed.

Ofqual added: “Mock exams and non-exam assessments do not normally cover the full range of content.

“Centre assessment grades took into account the student’s performance across the whole course.

“In circumstances where the centre assessment grade was lower than the mock grade, the student will receive the centre assessment grade.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the A-level results announced in England as 'robust and reliable'
PM defends A-level results as ‘robust’

The government has confirmed schools in England will be able to appeal against A-level and GCSE grades for free.

State-funded schools and colleges will also be able to claim back the cost of unsuccessful appeals as well as fees for autumn exams, the Department for Education said.

Students in Wales will also be able to appeal against their A-level grades if they are lower than teachers’ predictions.

The Welsh government announced the plan following outcry over 42% of all A-level grades in the country being lowered during the moderation process.

Gavin Williamson defends government's approach to grading students
Image: Gavin Williamson has defended the government’s approach to grading students

Ophelia Gregory, who organised the Hyde Park protest and spoke about the mock results appeals process before Ofqual’s announcement, said: “This would be the cheapest option for them, to just give everyone their centre assessed grades and pretend the first ones didn’t even happen.

“It’s not enough. There’s no speed with the government. This will take weeks.

“Everyone’s already missed university and this is going to have a knock-on effect to next year’s intake because everyone’s going to have confirmed places if the appeals process goes through.

“This means it will be harder for the year 12s, who will have lower grades as they’ve not been in school for six months.”

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We don’t blame Ofqual for the bizarre nature of the appeals criteria.

“The regulator has been given a hospital pass by a government that is in disarray. It is time for ministers to stop the chaos and fall back on teacher-assessed grades rather than prolong this nightmare.”

Labour’s shadow education secretary Kate Green added: “Ministers have had months to plan for this and now have a matter of days to take action to ensure that young people are not robbed of their future.

“Families across the country will be rapidly losing faith that the government is committed to putting things right.”

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