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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 a “centre assessment grade”. 

What are centre assessment grades?

A centre assessment grade is based on a teacher's assessment of the pupil, as well as other factors including students’ classwork, bookwork, non-exam assessments, results of assignments or mock exams and previous examination results. We don’t yet know the balance of these different measures; we will update this advice when we do.
The government has offered guidance for teachers, Heads of Centres and Heads of Departments on the submission of centre assessment grades. The results are due to be awarded to pupils in England no later than August 2020.

What if my child is unhappy with their centre assessment grades?

If your child believes their centre assessment 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 centre assessment grades exactly as they would normal exam results.

What if my child just misses a university offer thanks to their centre assessment 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?

Ofqual has said it will do everything in its power to ensure that pupils will not be disadvantaged by the current circumstances in their transition to college, university or apprenticeships. The process for pupils who are home-schooled or recieving long distance-learning programmes will be more complicated, and some may have to wait up to another year to receive their grades.

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 centre assessment grades currently apply to GCSE, AS and A levels, Extended Project Qualifications (EPQ) and Advanced Extension Awards (AEA) in maths. However, the government is encouraging the regulators to show the “maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged”. It is working urgently to provide details of how vocational and technical qualifications will be awarded. 

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

The centre assessment grades 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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