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Students 'disempowered' by not being told their GCSE marks

As AQA reveals it will not include students' exam marks on result slips for the reformed GCSEs, one English teacher's open letter argues the move will 'disempower students who need empowerment the most'

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As AQA reveals it will not include students' exam marks on result slips for the reformed GCSEs, one English teacher's open letter argues the move will 'disempower students who need empowerment the most'

Dear AQA,

Ahead of GCSE results day, it has come to my attention that the decision has been taken to remove students’ exam marks from results slips for the new GCSEs. I have a number of concerns about this and I am writing to ask you to reconsider.

First of all, let me clarify my understanding of what will happen on results day with candidates’ results slips. Slips will contain a mix of the new GCSE grades and the old GCSE grades. The results of the old GCSE grades will be given alongside uniform mark scale (UMS) scores and grade boundaries will be shared. The results of the new GCSE grades will be given only as a grade, without the raw mark attached. There is no longer a need for UMS scores with the new GCSEs, because they are linear, but without knowing your own mark, grade boundaries are pointless. If students would like to know how close they were to the next grade – if it’s reasonable to request a remark, if they were close enough to resit in November – they will need to form an orderly queue at the exam officer’s desk. This is the only way they will be able to access the mark they achieved in their exams.

For me, there are a number of issues with this. First and foremost, it is about ownership. The students receiving their results at the end of August sat the exams themselves and therefore the marks they achieve are their own. In principle, students sit the exam, it is their result, therefore they should be given free access to the mark they achieve.

Second, I feel that it unfairly disadvantages students who achieve a grade 3 or lower. The initial way in which it disadvantages them is that they will have no idea how close they were to achieving the all-important grade 4, the grade they were hoping for and the grade they will need to access the next level of education. Achieving a grade 3 or D-grade is a knock to a student’s confidence, so needing to take the next step to question it in any way, including to enquire about the mark they achieved, takes confidence that these students may not have access to on the 24 August. The mark achieved is most important to students with grade 3s. Other ways include difficulties accessing re-marks – which, bear in mind, cost the school and college money unless the grade changes – and accessing resits. Additionally, it prevents students from knowing their performance in each exam: information that could support them towards improving.

Moving the GCSE grades goalposts

Students who achieve a grade 3 have another three chances to get their grade 4. Most of the time, they will spend a further year re-learning, un-learning and practising for the next June to take the same exam again. If the college these students are going to have access to their marks as part of initial assessment, they can allow for some students to resit in November as appropriate, giving candidates further away from a grade 4 more time and support to improve for June.

I find this decision disempowers students who need empowerment most. I understand that schools and colleges can take the decision to print their own results slips with marks on, but consider how much would have to be done in one day. How likely is it that institutions will do this?

Consider this: the goalposts have already been moved with a new specification. Is it really fair to disguise the goalposts on the day you find out if you’ve scored?

Yours faithfully,


Emily Newman is an English lecturer and blogger at a college in East Anglia

In response to this blog, an AQA spokesperson said: “Students’ individual marks are still available on the secure area of our website – teachers can access this, so it should still be straightforward for a student to get a breakdown of their results.”

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