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Why Cambridgeshire schools will not be publishing full GCSE results in 2020 - plus the national picture and Btec delays

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GCSE pupils opening their results will have been relieved they did so in the week after A-level students got theirs.

It meant that they were not affected by the chaos that surrounded the A-level results, which initially left many students with results downgraded by the now-discredited algorithm from exams regulator Ofqual.

Peter Law, principal of Comberton Village College and co-chair of Cambridgeshire Secondary Heads
Peter Law, principal of Comberton Village College and co-chair of Cambridgeshire Secondary Heads

Following the government’s U-turn, all GCSE and A-level results this year are whichever was higher out of their teachers’ predictions or the moderated grades, since no exams were sat during the Covid-19 pandemic.

And for that reason, headteachers in Cambridgeshire’s secondaries have decided not to release the usual performance results for their schools.

A spokesperson for the Cambridgeshire Secondary Heads group, said: “The government will not be publishing performance data for schools this year because of the exceptional and changing circumstances under which grades have been awarded.

“As the results are not comparable to previous years, Cambridgeshire Secondary Heads are focusing on celebrating the success of individuals whose hard work and excellent application resulted in them securing a great outcome, or who have succeeded in the face of exceptional adversity.

"Cambridgeshire schools do not intend to publish GCSE and A-level results and will instead be providing other relevant stories to celebrate successes."

Jonathan Lewis, director of education for Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, said: “We stand alongside all those who have been awaiting results over the last two weeks. Our students, parents and school and college teaching staff have faced a year like no other, and it certainly hasn’t followed the usual script.

“The uncertainty of the last few weeks in particular has made things even more difficult, but I have to give credit to our school and college leaders and our young people – they have handled it with great maturity and professionalism. They should be very proud today.”

Nationally, the proportion of GCSE entries in England awarded top grades has surged to a record high following the government U-turn.

GCSE entries in England awarded A/7 or above. Graphic: PA (40932888)
GCSE entries in England awarded A/7 or above. Graphic: PA (40932888)

Around 200,000 Btec pupils did not get their final results on Thursday, however, following a last-minute review of grades.

More than one in four (25.9 per cent) GCSE entries in England scored one of the three top grades this year, up from just over a fifth (20.7 per cent) last summer, figures from exams regulator Ofqual show.

The proportion receiving at least a 7 – the equivalent of an A grade – is a record high based on available data following the decision to award grades based on teachers’ assessments, rather than an algorithm.

Figures from Ofqual show that 6.3 per cent of entries in England were awarded a 9 – the highest grade under the new numerical grading system – this summer compared to 4.5 per cent last year.

More than three in four (76 per cent) entries were awarded at least a 4 – which is broadly the equivalent of a C – in England, which is up 8.9 percentage points on last year when 67.1 per cent achieved the grades.

GCSE entries in England awarded C/4 or above. Graphic: PA (40932891)
GCSE entries in England awarded C/4 or above. Graphic: PA (40932891)

The proportion of entries gaining 4 or above in the key subject of English rose by 9.4 percentage points to 71.2 per cent. The proportion gaining 7 or above rose from 13.9 per cent to 18.7 per cent this year.

In maths, the proportion gaining 4 or above in maths rose by 7 percentage points to 66.6 per cent – and those securing 7 or above rose from 15.9 per cent to 19 per cent.

Ofqual has confirmed that students in England who are unhappy with GCSE grades awarded by their school or college will not be able to appeal – unless there was an administrative error.

Last week, nearly two in five (39.1 per cent) of the A-level grades submitted by schools and colleges in England – around 280,000 entries in total – were adjusted down after moderation.

But new Ofqual data shows that the proportion of A-level entries now receiving an A grade or higher has increased to a record high for England following the U-turn, with 38.1 per cent awarded the top grades.

GCSE entries in England awarded 7 or above. Graphic: PA (40932894)
GCSE entries in England awarded 7 or above. Graphic: PA (40932894)

When this year’s results were first released last week under the controversial moderation system, some 27.6% of entries achieved an A or above.

Exam boards had moderated the grades – using an algorithm from Ofqual – to ensure this year’s results were not significantly higher than previously and the value of students’ grades was not undermined.

Schools minister Nick Gibb apologised to students on Thursday morning for the “pain and the anxiety” they felt prior to this week’s exam grading U-turn.

Traditional A*-G GCSE grades have been scrapped and replaced in England with a 9-1 system with 9 the highest result. A 4 is broadly equivalent to a C grade, and a 7 broadly equivalent to an A.

Students receiving GCSE results this summer will get numerical grades for all their subjects as all courses have now moved over to the new grading system.

College leaders have said more students than ever are likely to progress to A-levels and vocational courses following steep rises in the GCSE pass rates – including in maths and English.

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, added: “At the same time there may be fewer apprenticeship opportunities for school leavers because of the pressures in the labour market.”

GCSEs in England with most entries awarded grade 7 or above. Graphic: PA (40932897)
GCSEs in England with most entries awarded grade 7 or above. Graphic: PA (40932897)

Some colleges are already at maximum capacity and there is a limit to the number of pupils they can admit amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA).

And yet hundreds of thousands of Btec students are still waiting for their final grades after the exam board told schools and colleges not to release the results to pupils on Thursday.

Btec grades were not included in the original U-turn, but on Wednesday – with just hours to go until results day – examiner Pearson said it would regrade Btecs to “address concerns about unfairness”.

The government is facing calls from education leaders to increase funding and capacity in colleges and sixth forms to ensure students – including those waiting for Btec results – do not miss out on places amid a rise in top grades.

Mr Gibb said he was hopeful that pupils will get their Btec results next week.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said: “To those hundreds of thousands of young people receiving their GCSE grades and the A-level students receiving recalculated grades, I will say this to them, congratulations on what you have achieved.

“But also how sorry I am for the pain, the anxiety and the uncertainty that they will have suffered as a consequence of the grading issues we encountered last week.”

Speaking on GCSE results day, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “The profession rose to the challenge admirably.

“It was events beyond our control that sunk the standardisation model. Schools and colleges have once again been left to clear up the mess.”

Councillor Simon Bywater. Picture: Keith Heppell
Councillor Simon Bywater. Picture: Keith Heppell

Councillor Simon Bywater, chairman of the children and young people committee for Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “I wanted to share my best wishes to all those young people receiving results today. I have nothing but admiration for the hard work and effort they have shown. I hope it is a day for great celebration for many, carried out in a safe manner, of course. If you haven’t received the grades you were expecting, don’t worry. Your school or college will help you consider what to do next.”

The council has been backing the national ‘Jump4GCSEs’ campaign, encouraging students to celebrate safely and to share their celebration pictures using the hashtags #Jump4GSCEs and #CambSchools.

Additional reporting: Eleanor Busby and Ian Jones, PA

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