From education to employment

Labour calls for all A Level appeals fees to be waived as thousands of pupils’ results are downgraded

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary

@UKLabour has called for appeals of #ALevel grades to be made free this year, after figures from @Ofqual confirmed that tens of thousands of pupils have seen their results downgraded 

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green has also told Ministers that “nothing should be ruled out” including a Scottish Government-style U-turn.

Ofqual confirmed today that nearly two in five (39.1%) pupils’ A Level grades in England have been downgraded. The figures also confirm that students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by downgrades, while students from independent schools have seen top grades disproportionately rise.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary demanded that the government waive the fee for A Level appeals this year to ensure that no student is unable to challenge their grade if they think it is not accurate.

According to official figures published today by the exams regulator, the number of pupils achieving grade C or above was downgraded from teacher estimations by just over 10% for children from the most disadvantaged background, compared to just over 8% for their most affluent peers.

Meanwhile private school pupils have seen top grades increase far beyond state school peers. After falling by 1.9% last year, the proportion of private school pupils achieving A or A* has increased by almost 5%. That is more than double the increase seen in secondary state schools (2%) and more than 10 times the increase seen in sixth-form colleges (0.3%).

As it stands, schools and colleges are required to pay up front for appeals. Around 280,000 A Level grades have been marked down, and Labour is concerned that many schools could face a financial barrier to supporting their students in challenging grades.

Private schools are currently almost twice as likely as other schools to challenge A Level grades than other schools. Fee paying institutions challenge around 12% of all A Level grades, compared to 5.4% to 8.6% of A Levels in other schools and colleges.

Labour’s call for appeals fees to be waived follows a series of proposals set out by Labour on Tuesday, including individual right to appeal for pupils who feel their grade has been unfairly changed and requiring greater flexibility in admissions from universities and colleges.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said:

“Today is always an anxious day for pupils and parents across the country. That anxiety is far worse this year because of the fiasco caused by the Conservative Government. 

“I wholeheartedly congratulate those young people who have received the grades they deserve after working so hard. But across the country, many young people will be opening their results today to find grades which undermine their work and their potential. It is a huge injustice that pupils will see their results downgraded just because of their postcode. 

“We will look at the breakdown of the results, but it is clear the government’s approach to exams has been chaotic. 

“Ministers must act urgently to correct the injustice faced by so many young people today. Students must be able to lodge their own appeals if they haven’t got the grade they deserved and admissions teams must be forced to be more flexible. No student should see their dreams slip away because of this government’s inaction.”

Kate continued:

“Across the country, thousands of young people are opening their exam results full of hope, only to see their opportunities and their futures dashed.

“This is a huge injustice. Pupils, parents and teachers are rightly angry and upset.

“The Government has had five months to sort this out. Action is needed in days, not weeks. Students should be guaranteed the right to individual appeals and the fee for appeals should be waived. Students must be treated fairly and nothing should be ruled out, even if Ministers have to follow the U-turn that was forced on the Scottish Government.”

Schools, colleges, and other education settings are currently required to pay to review and appeal grades, and get this cost refunded only if a grade is changed.

According to the independent exams regulator Ofqual, private schools are far more likely to appeal their grades: “Overall, independent schools tended to submit a greater percentage of their qualification entries, at both GCSE and A level (11.9%).”

Other school types submitted 5.4% to 8.6% of their A Level qualification entries for an enquiry

Despite submitting far more grades for review, independent schools are not more likely to succeed in having grades changed. This suggests that the issue is not the merits of appeals, but rather that private schools are better resourced to challenge these decisions.

There were around 108,000 reviews of A Level grades in the 2018/19 exam year

Labour has called on the Prime Minister to ensure a generation of young people were not robbed of their future by this year’s exam results. He called for far greater flexibility in admissions to higher and further education, greater transparency in the process, allowing individual students to appeal their grades, and ensuring that nobody is standardised to below a Grade 4 in GCSE Maths and English next week.

Related Articles