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COVID-19: your education questions answered

An empty classroom

As COVID-19 tightens its grip on the UK, the government has announced the closure of schools and cancelled exams in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

It’s a time of uncertainty for you and your child, especially if they were previously revising for public exams. 

We’ve broken down the government’s new guidance on the cancellation of GCSEs, AS, and A Levels to try to offer a little clarity. 

Why have exams been cancelled?

Schools are closed for most students, other than for vulnerable children and children of critical workers. The government says that in order to provide certainty to pupils, parents and children, exams have been cancelled. 

Are SATS going ahead?

No. SATS will not be going ahead this academic year. The same is true of all other exams. 

Will my child get their predicted grades instead?

The government has acknowledged that using predicted grades wouldn’t be fair to all students. (Students from disadvantaged homes are, for example, more likely to have their grades under-predicted.) Instead, GCSE and A-Level students will be awarded what the government is calling “calculated grades”. 

What are calculated grades?

A calculated grade is based on a teacher's assessment of the pupil, as well as other factors such as prior attainment, including students’ performance in mock exams, modules, and other assessments. We don’t yet know the balance of these different measures; we will update this advice when we do.
So far, the government has said that “clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools and colleges”. The calculated grades will be a “best assessment of the work they have put in” and are due to be awarded to pupils in England by the end of July.

What if my child is unhappy with their calculated grade?

If your child believes their calculated grade doesn’t reflect their performance, they will have the opportunity to appeal, or resit an exam once schools and colleges reopen. Universities have promised to be flexible in these cases, and potentially allow students to enrol later. Or students can wait until summer 2021 to retake. Universities will treat the calculated grades exactly as they would normal exam results.

What if my child just misses a university offer thanks to their calculated grades?

The government says: “University representatives have already confirmed that they expect universities to be flexible and do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.” Whether this means universities will be less rigid in demanding the offered grades remains to be seen. Possibly this will differ from institution to institution. The government has said it does not expect universities to start making students unconditional offers. Again, how universities will respond exactly is still unclear.

Will the past performance of my child’s school be taken into account?

To make the process as fair as possible, Ofqual, the independent regulator of qualifications, has said measures will aim to reflect how much progress a student is likely to have made at the school they are attending. 

What if my child is home-educated?

The government says it is working closely with Ofqual to explore the options of “awarding grades to private candidates”. 

What if my child is taking vocational or technical qualifications?

Your  child may have already completed modules or other non-exam assessments for a vocational or technical qualification. The government is encouraging the regulators to show the “maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged”. More details of how vocational and technical qualifications will be awarded will be provided in due course. 

What if my child was due to start higher education or enter work this year?

The calculated grade awarded to your child will have “equal validity” to the grades awarded in previous years and will be treated this way by universities, colleges and employers. 

The government is updating its education guidance on a rolling basis and Parent Zone will be amending our advice accordingly.

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