A-level pupils win right to see how they rank among peers

A-level pupils will be able see who is top of the class after winning right to see how they rank among peers – but schools face ‘flood’ of complaints as 300,000 marks ‘will get downgraded’

  • The Information Commissioner’s Office says pupils can request information
  • Class rankings play a factor in either raising or lowering pupils calculated results 
  • Head teachers have been told not to give rankings out unless ‘explicitly’ asked
  • Independent Schools Association expects a ‘flood of appeals’ about results

A-level pupils have won the right to know where they rank among their classmates ahead of next weeks A-level results day.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has confirmed that the exam script exemption, used to protect how markers have decided on a pupil’s final grade, will stay in place this year but that it does not apply to rank order requests from pupils.

The coronavirus pandemic interrupted the usual exam period leading to results being generated by a statistical model.

A-level pupils have won the right to know where they rank among their classmates after the Information Commissioner’s Office said that the class rankings submitted by teachers was not covered by the exam script exemption (stock image)

The model will take into account factors such as where each pupil ranks in their class when calculating their results, with those at the top of the list potentially having grades raised and those at the bottom having their results lowered, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The information commissioner says that if a formal request is made before the results are announced then the school will have five months to respond to the request or 40 days after the exam results are announced.

If the request is made after results day then it must be dealt with as quickly as a normal request. 

The Association of School and College Leaders said that there had been some confusion over whether pupils were allowed to know their predicted grades.

The association told the paper: ‘Our understanding, at least initially, was that these would remain private, and that students would only be told their final calculated grade.’

The coronavirus pandemic interrupted the usual exam period leading Ofqual calculating results using a statistical model

They also acknowledged that predicted grades and pupil rankings are not exempt from subject access requests made under the Data Protection Act 2018.

Under the General Data Protection Regulations, students are able to request information that the school has already submitted to the exam boards about them.

This includes any comments about their predicted grades, their class ranking and any scores achieved in school tests – but they are not allowed to request information that they recorded themselves, such as mock exams or assignments.

Head teachers had been under the impression that this information would remain confidential and now argue that by giving students this information, they have been placed in a difficult position.

The information commissioner says that if a formal request is made, the school then have five months to respond to the request or 40 days after the exam results are announced

To deal with concerns, head teachers have been advised by the Association of School and College Leaders not to reveal rank order positions unless pupils ‘explicitly’ request them. 

Ofqual’s statistical model for calculating exam results has been introduced after concerns that some teachers were inflating predicted grades for some pupils.

However, schools are also set to be faced with a flood of complaints because of Ofqual’s model which is predicted to lower around 300,000 A-level results.

Nearly 40% of A-level grades given by teachers in England will be downgraded when Ofqual issue exam results next week.

Private schools have reportedly hired lawyers, with a ‘flood’ of appeals from angry parents expected.

Education lawyers are working with schools which could face demands for blanket appeals over the results.

Schools are also set to be faced with a flood of complaints because of Ofqual’s model which is predicted to lower around 300,000 A-level results

GCSEs are also expected to be downgraded at a similar rate, meaning more than 2 million grades set by teachers could be adjusted or ignored completely.

Criticism over this year’s exams is intensifying after Ofqual rejected 124,000 grade recommendations for students in Scotland earlier this week – a quarter of all entries.

Ofqual will allow schools to appeal their results if they think they will vary greatly from previous years’ but unlike Scottish students, English students are barred from getting their grades individually reconsidered.

Neil Roskilly, chief executive of the Independent Schools Association, said he expected a ‘flood of appeals’ from schools.

He told the Times: ‘Parents will immediately be putting pressure on schools to make blanket appeals, schools are going to be inundated with requests from parents.

‘Schools will put in more appeals, there’s no doubt, driven by the perception of where they should be in league tables.

‘The appeals process tends to benefit pushier parents and pushier schools.’

Changes to university admissions 

Plans for a radical shakeup of England’s university admissions will see students apply for places after their A-level results.

The move, directed by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, will mean the start of the academic year will be in January rather than September.

It is hoped the change will boost social mobility by helping children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

However, the Department of Education is considering other options, including a five week university application window between the release of exam results in August and the start of the next academic year in September.  

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