GCSEs 2020: Please don't allow CAG appeals, say schools

Independent schools chair says appeals over teacher-assessed grades would be 'the road to hell'

Catherine Lough and Claudia Civinini

private school

Independent schools are "anxious" about a possible onslaught of appeals over teacher-assessed grades and say they want confirmation that these grades cannot be appealed as quickly as possible.

Barnaby Lenon, chair of the Independent Schools Council, said allowing pupils to query their teacher-assessed grades would be "the road to hell".

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"Those parents and pupils who don’t like their CAGs [centre-assessed grades] – now Ofqual have always said and we kind of agreed with them, that you should not be able to appeal against CAGs, because there is no one better equipped, can never be anyone better equipped than the teacher to determine the CAG and so it was never going to be possible to appeal against CAGs," he said.

"What we would like – because I don’t think we’ve had any kind of formal document yet from the Department for Education or Ofqual about what’s happening – what we would like is confirmation that appealing against CAGs, other than using the school complaints policy is not something which is part of the system," he added.

Mr Lenon said independent schools were "anxious" about the issue.

"What we don’t want is the doors being opened to dozens or hundreds of appeals on teacher-assessed grades," he said. "It would create uncertainty for teachers and there would also be issues regarding fairness if some pupils did this and others didn’t, some schools did this and others didn’t.

"In general terms, we would not welcome any widening of the gates on this particular issue...It’s the road to hell," he added.

Parental concerns

However, some parents are concerned that schools have underestimated their children's grades.

"They were worried a visit by Ofqual where the work of one random student was checked could have resulted in downgrades for all students," one parent from the '2020 A-level Grading Issues Support' Facebook group told Tes.

"These students will be severely disadvantaged a second time and they don’t even know it yet," they added.

In a poll of 286 respondents in the group, 32 per cent said they felt they had only been downgraded through teacher-assessment, while 15 per cent said they had been underestimated by both their school and Ofqual. A further 54 per cent said their school had given them the grades they expected, but that these were reduced by Ofqual's moderation process (the poll was undertaken before the government U-turn on teacher-assessed grades).

Mr Lenon added that private schools were pleased about the use of teacher-assessed grading.

"We were receiving a lot of flak because under the algorithm it looks as if independent schools benefited in some way – that was slightly overstated incidentally, because although some independent schools are small and it’s true we tend to teach subjects where the numbers can be small...the fact is that most independent school sixth forms are quite large and most of the pupils are studying subjects where the numbers are far greater than 15.

"So the problems that confronted state schools were confronted in exactly the same way by independent schools. In other words, we too found remarkable grades for pupils taking subjects like physics, chemistry and biology."

"For that reason among many others, it’s quite a good thing that this problem has now gone away because we’re all using CAGs. So that irons out the inequality but leaves a different inequality, which is that some schools were more optimistic than others, as Ofqual has said."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are not aware of any plans to extend the grounds of appeal in order to allow students to challenge their centre-assessed grades.

"It is difficult to see how this would work in practice given the logistical challenges involved in reviewing the evidence and decision-making that went into a very complex process, and doing so in a way which is consistent.

"However, we would be happy to consider any proposals. We fully understand that some students will feel unhappy that they are unable to appeal their centre-assessed grades, but this was ruled out by Ofqual from the outset, and the shifting sands of the past week are not the fault of schools and colleges, who have simply done their best to follow the processes.”

Ofqual and the DfE have been contacted for comment.

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