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A-levels and GCSEs procedure 2021

Results day, mitigating circumstances and appealing grades.

As the classes of 2021 gets ready for their results to be issued, this has been a trying and stressful time for students and their parents. The uncertainty and doubt surrounding this process is set to make an already difficult time much harder. With results day for A-level set for 10/08/2021 and GCSE results day set for 12/08/2021, here is some information which will hopefully provide a bit of clarity.

How are the grades decided?

This year, A-level and GCSE exams have been cancelled due to the disruption and safety concerns of Covid-19. In their place, the Department of Education has confirmed that grades will be assessed and decided by the student’s teachers. This has been done to assure students that they will still receive a grade which is based on their ability. Importantly, it’s been made clear that a student’s grade will be based only on the work they have done and wouldn’t consider any work they have missed.

When it comes time to assess the student’s grades, the teachers should use a wide range of evidence to make their decision. This could include mock exams, coursework and other work completed as part of a student’s course, such as essays or in-class tests. The teachers will also be provided clear guidance by the Department of Education and exam boards will provide optional sets of questions for teachers to use to help them gather evidence. These will be a combination of published and unpublished questions and teachers will be able to select questions that reflect what they have taught their students.

Schools will make sure that their assessment process is fair, using guidance from exam boards. Exam boards will also check schools – both a representative sample of all schools and colleges, and more targeted checks using risk-based criteria. Before the grades are submitted, students should be told what evidence is being used to assess them. 

Students should also tell their teachers about any mitigating circumstances over the academic year which they think might affect their grade. This could include bereavement, financial hardship or physical and mental illness. The school will have discretion over whether to consider these circumstances, and so if a school believes that a student has suffered misfortune which has impacted their academic ability they may take that into account when coming to a decision.

To protect against grade inflation, the exam boards will provide example answers and grade descriptors which will be broadly comparable to performance standards in previous years. These should help teachers make sure their assessments are fair and consistent with previous year’s results. This will run in tandem with the exam board’s quality assurance process to ensure that grades are consistent. 

Appealing my grade

As the students will be shown the work their grade will be based on, there should be less surprises come results day. It also gives the opportunity for students and parents to contact the school directly to challenge the decision before it is finalised on 18/06/2021. This could be because they don’t believe that the grade accurately reflects the student’s academic ability

If the school does not change the preliminary grade before it is finalised on 18/06/2021, there are still options available. Just like every other year, students have a full opportunity to appeal their grade. This is actually why the A-level results day has been moved forward; to give more time for students to log appeals for their results before they go to university. If a student believes their result is incorrect, they can ask their exam centre to check for any errors made. If the student believes their grade is still incorrect, then the exam centre can then submit an appeal to the exam board on their student’s behalf. The exam board can then confirm whether the grade is reasonable based on the evidence provided to it. If the grade is not reasonable, the exam board will determine the alternative grade.

Further help

Education law can be complicated and stressful and a student must fully understand the procedures to have the best possible chance of success. With their extensive knowledge and experience in dealing with school disputes, our education solicitors can help students by providing independent advice and help drafting a robust appeal.  At HCB, our education lawyers are passionate about getting the best possible result for students and understand the significant impact these decisions can have on both your education and future career. Making an appeal with the assistance of our specialist lawyers will provide you the independent and specialist advice you need.

If you need the help of a specialist education solicitor, please contact our specialist education legal team on 0333 202 7175 or contact us by email on 

Please note: the contents of this article are accurate as of 13/05/2021.