Requests for special consideration in GCSE and A levels rise by 19%

Lack of opportunities to resit units could be driving requests, says watchdog

Eleanor Busby

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The number of special consideration requests for GCSE and A levels has risen by 19 per cent in a year, new Ofqual statistics show. 

And the proportion of approved special consideration requests has also increased on last year – from 2.5 per cent of all assessments taken in 2016 to 3.1 per cent this year. 

Schools are able to apply for special consideration if a pupil is disadvantaged during their exams because of exceptional circumstances.

If approved, candidates may have their marks adjusted.

If a candidate was present, but disadvantaged through circumstances such as illness, a small percentage may be added to the raw mark. In cases where candidates are absent from an exam for a valid reason, they may ask for a mark to be calculated for the missing unit and a qualification awarded.

Linear assessment

In total, there were 607,110 special consideration requests, compared to 511,915 requests made in 2016 – a rise of 19 per cent. 

And there were 567,795 special consideration requests that were approved this year, compared to 479,565 approved requests in 2016 - a rise of 18 per cent.

Exams regulator Ofqual has said today that the increase in requests could be partly explained by the move towards linear assessment. 

The report states: "Because of this, candidates may apply for special consideration if there are extenuating circumstances as there is no longer a resit opportunity for individual units.

"GCSE English literature and English language entries have increased due to the transition of entries from level 1/2 qualifications. This may mean there are more requests, as higher numbers are entering these subjects."

Major incidents

It was predicted that requests would surge this year after three major incidents: the terrorist attacks in Manchester Arena and London Bridge, and the Grenfell Tower fire.

The report mentions that this summer, there was also a change in the rules around who can apply that was expected to influence the numbers applying for special consideration. 

Last year, the exam boards required candidates who requested a qualification award – but who had been absent from exams – to have completed at least 40 per cent of the assessments for a subject.

After the tragic events of this summer, and the introduction of more linear GCSE and A-levels the exam boards decided to lower this to 25 per cent for summer 2017.

However, today's statistics show that the number of approved qualification award requests only increased very slightly – from 23,470 to 24,765 – despite the change in rules introduced this summer. 

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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