The exams regulator was warned over possible "confusion" over conflicting GCSE and A-level appeals deadlines, it has emerged.
Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, wrote to Ofqual interim chief regulator Simon Lebus last week to raise concerns that its published guidance could cause confusion to students about when they should submit appeals.
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In the letter, Mr Halfon points out that the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) set out a window for priority appeals from 10 August to 7 September, while most non-priority appeals could take place from 10 August to the end of October.
The letter says that in a blog post from the Department for Education published on 9 June 2021, the deadline stated for students to submit their appeals to their schools are the same as those set out by JCQ – 16 August for a priority appeal, or 3 September for a non-priority appeal.
"We note, however, that some of Ofqual’s guidance to students does not reflect the above deadlines, and does not make clear that priority appeals need to be submitted earlier," the letter says.
It cites Ofqual’s Student guide to awarding: summer 2021 released on 10 May, which advises students that: "If you are concerned that the grade you have received is wrong, there is an appeals process. If you appeal, your grade could go up, go down or stay the same. The deadline for submitting an appeal is 17 September."
And it highlights an Ofqual infographic that also advises pupils that the final deadline is 17 September.
"These documents do not make clear that priority appeals will need to be submitted earlier (although some do explain that UCAS have a deadline of 7 September for students to meet their offer conditions for university entry), and risk implying to all students that they have until 17 September to start the first stage of an appeal," the letter says.
"However, as stated above, JCQ’s guidance suggests that the recommended deadline for students to submit priority appeals is 16 August, and for non-priority appeals it is 3 September, and we believe that students should be aware of these dates."
Mr Halfon's letter calls for clarification and warns that the different dates could be "misleading" for students.
Ofqual responded on 22 July to say that all schools would set their own deadlines for appeals this year that allow them to meet exam boards' deadlines, and also confirming that schools must appeal to the boards over grades – pupils cannot appeal directly themselves.
"The exam boards have allowed schools and colleges to decide on their own deadlines to enable them to manage the workload associated with the appeals process, particularly as some appeals will be undertaken during the summer holiday period," Mr Lebus said.
"This is something schools and colleges are used to, as it reflects practice in every year."
He added that Ofqual had changed its guide for students to make it clear they must check the guidelines set by their schools and work within these.
The JCQ guidance on dates was "advisory not mandatory", Mr Lebus said, and therefore these recommended dates were not included in Ofqual's own student guide.
But he added that the student guide has been updated to say: "The deadline by which your school or college must submit an appeal on your behalf to the exam board is 17 September (or 23 August if you want your appeal to be considered as a priority because you have not had your first choice of university place confirmed).
"Your school or college will set its own deadline for receiving your appeal, which will be earlier than these dates. You must check the deadline your own school or college has set. Your school or college must undertake its own review before it can send an appeal to the exam board."
"We can confirm that both JCQ and DfE will update their documents to make it clear that schools and colleges might set different deadlines to those suggested by JCQ and that students should check the deadlines that apply to them," he added.
"JCQ will be publishing its own student guide on the appeals process in early August. JCQ has confirmed its guide will stress the need for students to check the deadlines set by their school or college."
Mr Halfon said: "Getting your results can be a stressful time, so it’s really important that where they might have been an error, students don’t face the added anxiety of not being clear on how and when to appeal.
"We therefore welcome Ofqual’s speedy clarification of the appeals process so nobody will miss out on getting the grades that all their hard work deserves.”