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Gavin Williamson gives reassurance for schools and students on result appeals – sector response

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson

@GavinWilliamson gives reassurance for schools and students on result appeals

  • Government action ensures the fairest possible approach in the absence of exams
  • Schools Minister to chair daily Gold Command group overseeing appeals
  • Appeals will be free for schools and colleges


The Government has confirmed that all appeals of A and AS level and GCSE results will be free for schools and colleges following the implementation of the triple lock process that will ensure confidence and fairness in the results system this year, (Saturday 15 August).

Despite the unprecedented circumstances, A level results on Thursday showed that grades have remained broadly stable with a 2.5 percentage point rise in A and A* grades. However, the Government’s triple lock process means that those unhappy with their calculated grades can appeal on the basis of a valid mock result.

The Government has confirmed today that state funded schools and colleges will also be able to claim back unsuccessful appeal costs at the same time as claiming back fees for autumn exams, which the Government announced would also be reimbursed earlier this week. Successful appeals claims will remain free for schools and colleges.

The Education Secretary has also ordered a ‘Gold Command’ taskforce to be set up by the Department, chaired by Schools Minister Nick Gibb and including Ofqual and the exam boards. The group will meet daily during between now and 7 September to ensure appeals are being processed quickly and young people can move on to university, college or the world of work. 

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

 “Hundreds of thousands of students received results this week that will take them onto the next stage of their lives, with a record number of 18-year-olds securing places at their first-choice university.

 “I know that alongside the success of so many young people, there have been some difficult cases. I have said repeatedly that my absolute priority is fairness for students, and I do not want anything holding them back from achieving the grades they deserve.

 “So all result appeals for state funded schools and colleges will be free, helping to make sure every single student has the best possible chance of securing the grades they need in order to take their next step.”

The news comes after 300,000 students collected exam results on Thursday, with a higher proportion of disadvantaged 18-year-olds going to university than on A level results day last year.

Using mock exams as a basis for appeals is part of the Government’s triple lock system for students, meaning they can progress with their calculated grade, appeal on the basis of a valid mock or sit an exam in the autumn, giving students extra security and helping them move on in life.

As set out by Ofqual last week, schools and colleges will also be able to appeal if they believe their historic data does not reflect the ability of their current students – that may be because they have experienced a recent change in leadership or because they have one or a number of exceptional students.

Sector Response to A-Level schools and students on result appeals

Kate Green MP Shadow Education Secretary with Labour commented on reports that appeals for students over poor grades are to be made free said:

Keir Starmer demanded appeals to be made free over 24 hours ago.

“But once again, this government have been far too slow to act and have failed young people.

“The government must now go further and allow students to use teacher assessed grades to ensure they can get the results they deserve.”

Responding to reports that the Government will cover costs of all appeals after thousands of students have not secured places at their first choice universities due to downgraded results, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

“For the young people who have worked so hard to not get the results they deserve, through no fault of their own, this annoucement alone will be cold comfort.

“While this should never have been needed, it is right the Government has listened to the Liberal Democrats and others and u-turned.

“Ministers must also now ensure that pupils are able to appeal directly, present evidence that reflects their performance and progress and are provided clear guidance on how re-sits will work.

“Ultimately, after Gavin Williamson’s botched handling of the process thus far, pupils will have no confidence in him to fix the broken glass. Before he causes anymore hurt, he must go.” 

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) said:

“I’m pleased to see that appeals will be free, that is a good step. What we have asked for, though, is for Ofqual to recognise that the algorithm they have used has inadvertently resulted in lots of glaring anomalies and unfairness for college students. And let’s be clear, I’m talking about examples such as where high grade passes in a college have gone down by several percentage points compared with the last few years. That is not what was promised and is grossly unfair. Colleges should not need to appeal, because the approach has clearly not worked very well for their students. 

We want Ofqual to work with us and awarding bodies to address those swiftly and with judgements based on what would be fair. I’m hoping that is what will happen next week because students need this sorted quickly.”

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