Article provided by Newcastle College
Students across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are bracing themselves for results day as the 2019/20 academic year comes to a conclusion in the next two weeks.
2020 will not be forgotten quickly, and the education sector has been one of the hardest hit as the Covid-19 pandemic brought life as we know it to an unexpected halt.
In the middle of March, schools, colleges, and universities were closed until further notice and on 18th March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that GCSE and A-level exams would be cancelled, and students would receive calculated grades instead.
Here, we explore what the next few weeks have in store for GCSE students as their results are revealed, what the 2020 appeals process looks like, resit options, and a look ahead to the 2021 academic year.
Student anxieties over exam results
The Covid-19 pandemic led to widespread fear for students’ mental health, with anxieties over predicted grades and future education prospects dominating the narrative. The last-minute cramming that has served some students well down the years went out the window, and with even the more academically attuned students being graded based on their school’s previous three years of results, anxieties peaked.
Ofqual, the qualifications and exams regulator for England, published a document in April which said additional checks would be carried out to ensure that the results given would be fair. These checks include ‘putting all centre assessment grades through an external standardisation process’ which will make them comparable between schools and colleges, and national results are similar to previous years.
What can I expect on GCSE results day?
Understandably, the traditional routine of attending your school to collect your results is off the table in 2020. Instead, 20th August will see face masks, social distancing measures, and even results being emailed to school leavers. The celebratory hugs and high fives might be off-limits, instead peers might be seen elbow bumping and offering virtual hugs as Covid-19 restrictions continue into August.
Can I appeal my results?
In May, Ofqual set out a standardised grading system which drew on schools’ exam performance in 2017, 2018, and 2019, but it left many students anxious that their grades could be impacted by learners who left the school before they had even commenced their course.
As Scottish higher education results were unveiled, it was announced that the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) downgraded almost a quarter of the assessments that were re-evaluated, which led to widespread criticism of teaches. A governmental U-turn following an outcry from affected pupils which means that thousands of students will have their results upgraded back to their predicted grades.
The controversy in Scotland has led the government to change its policy for GCSE exam results in England, meaning that students will be able to use mock exam results to complete college and job applications.
Pupils will only be able to challenge their awarded grades if they have evidence of bias or discrimination. Appeals will be allowed in cases where a centre believes it has made an error when submitting information or if it believes an exam board made a mistake when calculating, assigning, or communicating a grade.
Given the strange circumstances that the 2020 exams have thrown up, any student who believes their grade does not reflect their ability will be given the opportunity to resit their exams in the autumn, while a strict appeals process has been organised for educational institutions.
What does the future hold?
Most students will be busy preparing for college life, whether that is through the same institution they completed their GCSEs with or taking the next step into higher education. For those students who do not achieve the results they had targeted, there are always options.
A common misconception is that vocational BTEC qualifications are more attuned to students who have a lower grade attainment, while in truth, like A-levels, they also offer a route to university education, with the added benefit of the opportunity to gain experience in a sector that you enjoy doing already.
Newcastle College, which also offers a broad curriculum of foundation degrees and adult study options, has adapted its pastoral care facilities — which provides support with learning needs and mental health issues — to offer a wider support network to students joining the college from September. With course start dates just a few weeks away, support is also available during the college’s enrolment period to any students who need to get back on track after missing their desired grades.
Principal Scott Bullock said: “We understand that results day is going to be a little more anxious for students this year, but we don’t want anyone to panic. Not getting the results you hoped for can seem like the end of the world, but it really doesn’t have to be. We’ve got plenty of options available for every single student and if anyone needs to improve their English and maths grades, we can help them to do that too.
“We’ve been busy making sure campus is going to be safe but exciting place to be this September and students will still be able to spend time with their friends and classmates and access any support they might need.”
For students who do not attain the grades required for level one or two courses, the college has a range of level three courses across art and design, sport, digital media, and hospitality. Anyone who failed to pass their mathematics or English exams the first time around will also be able to study the subjects alongside these courses.
GCSE assessments in 2021
For those students who have just completed their first year of two-year GCSE courses, it is important to note that the Department of Education is still finalising its approach for how assessments will be carried out. Having already indicated an intention for exams to return long before the 2021 summer season, the DoE is currently analysing responses to a consultation on how teaching methods and assessment requirements can be amended. As students missed most of the spring and summer terms in the current academic year, it is envisaged that teacher time will be reallocated and elements of the curriculum will be reduced in a bid to mitigate the disruption to students’ education.
The 2020 exam season is unique and is unlikely to be repeated, something most students will be delighted to hear. The next few weeks will be challenging for pupils across the UK but seeking advice from your tutors and college support networks will be imperative to finding the best way forward for your career ambitions.
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