GCSE and A-level exams cancelled in COVID-19 measures

The exam regulator, Ofqual, will work with examining bodies and teachers to provide calculated grades for GCSE and A-level students whose exams have been cancelled

Student taking exam
Pixabay/ F1 Digitals
Exams due to take place this summer, including GCSEs and A-levels, have been cancelled, with students now to be provided a calculated grade based on expected performance.

GCSE and A-level students with ambitions of studying optometry faced uncertainty as the Government announced school closures and the cancellation of summer exams as part of the plans to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Universities, including those offering optometry courses reassured prospective students of their commitment to making sure that students are not disadvantaged by the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an FAQ for applicants and offer holders, the University of Hertfordshire explained that while it was awaiting guidance on how qualifications will be awarded: “We’re totally committed to welcoming you to the University of Hertfordshire in the autumn. So once we know more from the exam boards we’ll work hard to find a simple and clear solution for you that helps you through the admissions process.”

Aston University confirmed its commitment to “ensuring that no applicant is disadvantaged as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak” and the University of Manchester said it would make adjustments to the admissions processes once guidance is clear, adding: “We understand that this is a very unsettling time for applicants but please be assured that we'll do all we can to ensure these changes won't affect your opportunity to attend university in the coming academic year.”

Providing further details in an update on the 20 March, the Department for Education shared that the exam regulator, Ofqual, and exam boards will work with teachers to provide grades to students whose exams have been cancelled.

Ofqual will develop and set out a process to provide a calculated grade to each student which reflects their performance “as fairly as possible” and will work with the exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied, the department explained.

The exam boards will also be asking teachers to submit their judgement about the grade they believe the student would have received, had the exams gone ahead, basing this on data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment.

The regulator highlighted it would be discussing the approach with teachers’ representatives before finalising, while university representatives confirmed they expect the universities will be “flexible” and “do all they can to support students and ensure they can progress to higher education.”

My priority now is to ensure no young person faces a barrier when it comes to moving onto the next stage of their lives

Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary

The Government explained that the aim will be to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July.

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said cancelling exams is something “no Education Secretary would ever want to do” but called it a “vital” measure in the efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19.

“My priority now is to ensure no young person faces a barrier when it comes to moving onto the next stage of their lives – whether that’s further or higher education, an apprenticeship or a job,” he commented.

Students will be able to appeal if they do not feel the correct process has been followed in their case, and if they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance they will have the opportunity to sit an exam early in the next academic year once schools reopen. Students will also have the opportunity to sit their exams in summer 2021.

In response to the update, the chief executive of the Office for Students, Nicola Dandridge, said the statement provided “useful and important” information for students, adding: “We want to assure those students that their grades will be equally valid to those in previous years, and their hard work will be rewarded and fairly recognised.”

She continued that, given the reassurances, “there is no reason to depart from the normal admissions processes.”

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) reassured students it was working closely with Ofqual, the Department for Education, the Scottish Government and the Office for Students, as well as the examination awarding bodies and is set to provide further updates for students.

UCAS confirmed plans to provide further updates, but had not yet released these at the time of publication.

OT endeavours to keep the most up-to-date news on our website and this information was correct when published. However, the situation regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. Please check OT’s rolling optics-specific coverage for the latest news and guidance on COVID-19.