GCSEs 2021: Grade 'triple checks will reduce appeals'

Students should think carefully about taking exams in autumn if they are unhappy with their grade, says leading head

Catherine Lough

GCSEs 2021: Schools' 'triple checks' of grades 'will reduce appeals'

The "intricate" double- and triple-checking of GCSE and A-level grades by schools this year should mean that there are "very few mistakes" leading to appeals, an independent schools' leader and headteacher has said.

Alex Hutchinson, chair of the Girls' Schools Association education committee and head of James Allen's Girls' School, a private all-girls' school in London, told the GSA podcast that: "What I would hope is that the level of intricate, double- and triple-checking [that schools have gone through] before submitting grades means that there are very few mistakes.”

GCSEs 2021: Should schools be running full mock exams?

Background: Teacher-assessed grades get the green light

2021 grades: Teachers relieved of appeals burden

Ms Hutchinson added that students being "unhappy" with a teacher-assessed grade was not a reason for an appeal.

GCSEs 2021: Appeals 'aren't for students who are just unhappy with their grade'

“The centralised appeals process says if you think a mistake has been made, there is a process there for you, but it doesn’t centre around if you are unhappy with your grade," she said, adding that the first stage of the appeals process would be checking whether the school had made an "honest mistake".

"It’s absolutely the school’s responsibility to check and correspond with exam boards if a mistake has been made," she said.

"The stage two appeal is after you’ve been to your school and still think there has been an error in the process or that you think an unreasonable judgement has been made. The guidance doesn’t say ‘the school could have given me a different grade’, it says ‘the grade the school has given me is unreasonable’," she added.

Ms Hutchinson also warned students to think carefully about taking exams in the autumn series if they were dissatisfied with their teacher-assessed grade, and check with their school whether revision classes would be on offer.

“What I would say is to think very carefully about what that will feel like to sit an exam in the autumn," she said.

"You may find that after you’ve left school and your cohort has moved on, you may find it harder than you think to get back into that routine of [preparing for] an exam.

"Equally, if you think you might want to sit a GCSE while getting on with your A levels, think about how that may feel, revising for a GCSE when you’ve sort of moved on from them. The autumn exams are there as an option, but do try to have the bigger picture about what the impact of that might be.”

Ms Hutchinson said that students hoping to go to university should "act quickly" as there are priority appeals in place for those whose university place could be affected.

She also said that grade inflation was to be "expected" this year, and that schools needed clarification over exams in 2022 as well.

“Those students who will be taking next year’s exams have had disruption to their educational experience, depending on very local circumstances, and there will have to be some sort of recognition that the playing field is not level," Ms Hutchinson said.

"There will be questions as to will we increase optionality in exams – will there be a bigger choice of questions – will there be a reduced specification, will there be some sort of learning aids that can be taken into exams such as formulae sheets in science and so on.

“Those discussions need to be had and we need to know the outcomes in schools soon so we can start planning. We really do need that clarification and we do hope that we get some sense of normality and an exam season this year because I think we all need it.”

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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