GCSE appeals expected to hit record high this year

·3 min read
GCSE results
GCSE results

GCSE appeals are expected to hit a record high this year as top grades are set to fall.

Pupils who watched their siblings and schoolmates in years above achieve inflated grades during the pandemic may not have realistic expectations about results this year, education specialists have warned.

A-level results released on Thursday showed a record decline in top grades with a rise in appeals expected.

Tens of thousands of GCSE pupils due to collect their results on Thursday have also been warned to prepare for disappointment.

Chris McGovern, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said he expected record appeals for both A-levels and GCSEs.

He said: “I’m sure there will be record appeals because pupils’ and parents’ expectations had never been higher because the youngsters had never done so well, so inevitably there’s going to be more disappointment.

“Pushy parents will certainly push for marking reviews.”

Parents compare results to pandemic years

Dr Tony Breslin, former GCSE chief examiner, warned that a significant change in grade outcomes was likely to result in a significant change in the number of appeals. He said the logical year to compare these exams with was 2019, but pupils and parents would inevitably compare themselves to the pandemic years.

“The question policymakers and Ofqual need to ask themselves is whether they managed students', parents' and teachers' expectations about these changes,” he told The Telegraph.

Exam boards have been ordered to set GCSE and A-level grade boundaries at a midpoint between 2021 and 2019. The policy led to a record drop in A and A* grades at A-level this week, with 60,000 fewer top grades awarded.

A larger fall in the number of GCSE top grades is anticipated next Thursday, as the Government clamps down on the record proportion of 29 per cent top grades awarded last year.

It comes as more than 20,000 aspiring students who missed the grades to meet their university offers faced a scramble for places in clearing. Only 14 Russell Group universities had places left in clearing on Friday. The University of Sheffield had no places left and had to close to new entrants in what it said was an “unprecedented” move.

Following a debate over allegations of social engineering by universities favouring disadvantaged students, the University of Oxford on Friday announced that a record 23 per cent of its new students are from the least advantaged backgrounds. This compares to 22 per cent last year and 13 per cent four years ago.

‘Grades need to have value’

Dr Jo Saxton, chief regulator at Ofqual, the exam watchdog said: “Students and their parents and carers can be reassured that, at national level, GCSE results are expected to be higher than those of 2019 when exams were last sat, and – as we have always said – lower than in 2021 when there was a different method of assessment.

“I felt strongly that it would not have been right to go straight back to pre-pandemic grading in one go but accept that we do need to continue to take steps back to normality. GCSE results this year will be a staging post on that journey, with lenient grades compared with 2019 to reflect pandemic disruption.

“We have to balance grades being meaningful and having currency. They need to have value and stand the test of time.”

Barnaby Lenon, former head of Harrow School and chairman of the Independent Schools Council, said: “As with A-levels, GCSE results may result in some disappointment if teachers have predicted optimistically or without a sense of the degree of grade deflation we know will happen.”

He added: “Some GCSE pupils have suffered much more than others from the impact of lockdowns and schools or sixth form colleges will take this into account.

“There remains a large number of GCSE pupils who have not caught up with the work that was missed because of Covid and they may require extra support in the next year, notably in basic numeracy and literacy.”