Coronavirus: How will students still get A-level and GCSE qualifications and be admitted to university?

Friday, March 27, 2020

Schools across the country will be closed by the end of this week and A-level and GCSE exams are cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic, the government has announced.

The news on Wednesday evening has left parents, students and teachers with many unanswered questions about what it will mean for teenagers hoping to start university in the autumn term.

Guidance on how pupils will get the qualifications they need is due to be issued on Friday. But here is what we know so far:

Will any exams take place this summer?

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said that all statutory exams in England – Sats, GCSEs and A-levels – will no longer take place this academic year.

But Mr Williamson has said the government is aiming to do all it can to ensure students still receive their GCSE and A-level results in August as planned.

How will they work out the grades?

Students are likely to be awarded predicted grades on the basis of teacher assessment and mock exam results, school leaders have suggested.

These teacher assessments could be submitted to exam boards to ensure “fairness" and to award final grades accordingly, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has suggested.

In a letter to heads on Thursday, Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said teachers will need to demonstrate that they can make a moderated assessment for each Year 11 and Year 13 child.

The government has yet to set out the details on how grades will be awarded using an alternative assessment system but an announcement is due in the next few days.

When asked whether online testing could be on the cards or whether teacher assessment would be used, Mr Williamson said the government did not have a clear preference.

Will they be able to appeal results?

Mr Williamson has said that there will be a “full and detailed appeals process” so parents and pupils will be able to question results issued. But the details on how this will work have yet to be announced. 

The vast majority of teachers try to give accurate assessments and the decision to suspend performance tables will remove any incentive to do otherwise, Mr Barton has stressed.

But concerns remain about using predicted grades. The National Union of Students (NUS) warned relying solely on predicted grades disadvantages black students and those from a working-class background.

What about university places?

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, believes the university admission process could still go ahead as normal this summer if an appropriate method is found to assess students and award grades.

If exam grades cannot be awarded, Mr Jarvis said that one option may be to give university places based on an applicant's predicted grades and personal statement.

Students will be able to start university courses in the new academic year “as long as it is safe to do so", he added.

Source: Independent