GCSEs and Coronavirus: How Students Are Affected

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Coronavirus has upended the examination system in the UK. Social distancing and the banning of mass events have rendered exams impossible to safely organise, ushering an unprecedented new system whereby teachers will work to decide what grades students get, taking into account yearly work and mock exams.

This process has been put in place after careful consideration by Ofqual and the Department for Education. It’s designed to be fair, robust, and does allow students to retake exams if they’re not happy. It’s the same for both GCSE and A-Level students as well as Scottish Highers students in Scotland. Everyone is in the same boat – you are far from alone!

Reactions are split into two camps. On one hand, some students hate exams and work hard throughout the year and on their coursework – they’ll likely be happy or unconcerned. On the other hand, some students really go for it in the run-up to actual exams and pick up their work ethic considerably ahead of the period. Neither stance is wrong or right. So how does the process work and how does it interact with GCSE students?

How The Grades will be Calculated

Teachers for each class subject will have to use ‘professional judgement’ to weigh up progress, homework, coursework and mock exam results in order to come to a “fair objective judgement”. All work can be taken into account and nothing discluded. Results won’t just be based off mocks alone, or just a few pieces of coursework, etc.

These grades will be awarded to the tier the student is partaking in. Higher tier grades from 9 – 3 will be allocated as well as foundation tier grades of 5 – 1.

Teachers will have to report their grades to the exam boards running the curriculum and exams. Students will be ranked in each grade boundary to help exam boards create standardised models for objective fairness. The sets of grades will be assessed on the whole to adjust them to bring them in line with each other where teachers are found to be too harsh or too generous.

Homeschooled or online learning students will have the same process through the centre they’re enrolled in to will assess their work so far to generate grades. If there is not sufficient work to go by, students will have to have meetings with tutors or complete work under supervision to aid in the decision. In the event homeschooled or online students don’t use a centre then they’ll either have to present sufficient proof of work to an exam board approved centre for them to be graded or will have to resit exams in autumn.

The submission date for teachers is on the 29th of May for GCSEs.

What About Appeals and Resits?

Many students will not be happy with this system. It’s certainly possible that there will be some major disparity between given grades and the grades students could achieve in a real exam. As mentioned, many students work through the year progressively before an all-out effort to prep for exams. Being caught off-guard may seem unfair.

There will be appeals systems in place where students who are unhappy with their calculations can refer their work to the examination board. This will depend heavily on the examination board itself so try and keep up to date.

Students will have the opportunity to resit any exam of their choice in autumn 2020 or summer 2021. This is suitable for students who were unprepared for this form of new examination (e.g. they got disappointing mock results, didn’t revise, etc), or for those who simply feel they want to give themselves the chance to achieve higher than what their teacher might have seen. If a student resits, they will be able to choose the higher of the two results. The plan is for autumn resists to be deal with as quickly as possible and for results to be out before Xh

When Are Results Out?

The 20th of August remains results day. Results could, however, be sent out to students earlier to give them additional time to plan their futures in education.

Keep up to date with updates from the Department of Education to discover info about appeals, resits and more. If you’re worried about your GCSEs then don’t feel alone here, there are thousands of students out there in similar positions. Your teachers are there to support you and you should reach out with any queries, questions, thoughts or feelings. With teamwork, we will get through this together!