GCSEs 2021: How to support pupils who miss their grades

What can teachers do to support students who miss their grades on GCSE results day? Here's a checklist of the options you can offer them

Grainne Hallahan

Teachers need to be ready to help disappointed GCSE students

This year, students will be receiving their GCSE results via teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) that have been based on work assessed and moderated by their teachers and school leaders following strict guidance from Ofqual.

For students who feel that there has been an error in the way the centre has processed their TAG, they will have the right to appeal

But what about students who have no grounds for appeal – or who appeal without success – and then need guidance as to what to do next if they did not get the results they wanted?

Here are five things you should be aware of to ensure you can advise them as best as possible.

1. Resits are still compulsory for maths and English

For all students who did not achieve at least a grade 4 in maths and/or English (language or literature), resits of those exams are compulsory. For students in this position, there will be exams in November. Alternatively, they can resit in the June 2021 series. 

If a student is not deemed capable of achieving a grade 4, then they must sit another "stepping stone" qualification. The Department for Education has produced guidance on what funding will be given and for which courses.

2. Waiting for GCSE resit results before starting A levels will be difficult

Although there will be an opportunity for students to resit any of their GCSE exams in November, students are likely to receive the results of these exams in January. Therefore, if they wish to use these results to gain entry on to an A-level course, it will be too late in the year to begin the course. 

This might mean students might have to be entered on to courses without the normal required grades, or students changing their choices for A-level subjects. 

Whether this will be allowed depends upon the education provider. 

3. Students wishing to resit GCSEs must weigh up the time cost

If a student is disappointed by their grades but has achieved the grades necessary to move on to their desired courses, then it would be wise to advise that student to take into consideration the time cost of resitting. 

For example, a student who had expected to be awarded a grade 8 and has actually been awarded grade 6 in triple science GCSE will be able to enter an A-level course to study chemistry and biology. However, they may wish to resit their science GCSE if they have plans to study medicine at university. In this case, covering the GCSE content of their science exams will not be detrimental to their A-level studies.

However, a student who expected to be awarded grade 8 and has actually been awarded a grade 6 in triple science GCSE but will not be studying science again may decide that the time cost of resitting isn’t worth it.

4. Not all A-level courses require study at GCSE

For some students, studying a subject at GCSE is not a prerequisite for entry at A level. For example, students who wish to study art at A level often do not need to have studied it for GCSE, and instead can produce a portfolio of work.

Therefore, students who are disappointed with their grades might be able to find another combination of courses that they can sit based on their achieved grades.

5. Funding for a 'year out'

In the UK, students must stay in education until 18 – however, this can include work-based training and apprenticeships.

It is important to remind students that if they wish to spend a year resitting their GCSEs before beginning an A-level programme then funding for students who are 18 when their course begins may not be guaranteed. For more details, check with your chosen training provider.

How to help GCSE students with their next steps

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Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan

Grainne Hallahan is Tes recruitment editor and senior content writer at Tes

Find me on Twitter @heymrshallahan

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