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A level 2020 grades: What we know so far

A level 2020 grades
Which grades will stand? What will happen to students taking exams outside the UK? Here's the latest on the A level 2020 grades fiasco. Source: Paul ELLIS/AFP

England will now use predicted marks by teachers after student backlash over their A level 2020 grades, which saw nearly 40% of grades downgraded. This comes after Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland reversed their decisions to use grades calculated by a controversial computer algorithm.

Students everywhere are now dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 cancelling the popular pre-university exam taken in over 130 countries with more than 575,000 subject entries each year.

How will the u-turn affect admissions? What about students taking A level exams outside the UK? Here’s what we know so far about of this year’s A level 2020 grades fiasco:

UK students can choose predicted grades or “calculated” grades, whichever is higher

After Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, exam regulator Ofqual confirmed yesterday that England will follow suit in scrapping the use of moderated grades and allow results to be based on teacher predictions.

Students in English schools will be able to take the higher of either the adjusted grade or the estimate made by their teachers. In a statement on its website, Ofqual Chair Roger Taylor wrote that they will be taking steps to “remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people” who were awarded results last week for exams they never took.

a level 2020 grades

Students hold placards as they protest outside Codsall Community High School near Wolverhampton, central England on Aug. 17, 2020 to demonstrate against the downgrading of A-level results. Source: Paul Ellis/AFP

“After reflection, we have decided that the best way to do this is to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted. The switch to centre assessment grades will apply to both AS and A levels and to the GCSE results which students will receive later this week,” he said.

It acknowledged that asking students and teachers to submit appeals where grades were incorrect under their “calculated grades” system burdened teachers and made students anxious and uncertain. Taylor said, “For all of that, we are extremely sorry. We have therefore decided that students be awarded their centre assessment for this summer — that is, the grade their school or college estimated was the grade they would most likely have achieved in their exam — or the moderated grade, whichever is higher.”

International students will not get grades lower than those submitted by schools

Cambridge Assessment International Education, which administers the A level exams for secondary school students in countries like Malaysia and Singapore, announced yesterday: “We have decided that grades we issue for the June 2020 series will not be lower than the predicted grade submitted by the school. Where a grade we issued last week was higher than the predicted grade, the higher grade will stand.”

university clearing 2020

A student greets a teacher following the new normal guidelines, after receiving her A-Level results. Source: Tolga Akmen/AFP

The u-turn follows feedback received for June 2020 results. New grades will be issued and shared with universities and admissions organisations “as soon as possible” in the coming days. They will be posted on Cambridge International Direct as well. Schools will be updated further on this process on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.

Impact on Clearing 2020

The u-turn over A level 2020 grades is reportedly affecting university admissions teams, many of which have said they will reassess their withdrawn offers. Sheffield Hallam University said in a statement on its website: “There may be a very small number of cases where we cannot [honour an offer] due to constraints such as the set number of available work placements for certain health or teaching courses. In this case we will offer you a place at the next available intake.”

According to ITV, Leeds Beckett University pledged to “honour our commitment to applicants who meet the terms of their original offer and those who applied through clearing.” Leeds University said it was “working through” what the announcement meant “for our students and offer holders.” York University tweeted: “We are awaiting further details and we will provide more information and guidance to students as soon as we can.” Sheffield and Bradford universities made similar statements.

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