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Students in England, Northern Ireland and Wales received A level qualification results today, with their grades based on centre-assessed grades by their teachers and standardisation processes following the cancellation of all exams due to the pandemic.

The pass rate for Biology A level was 97.2%, with a 99.2% pass rate for the practical endorsements awarded alongside the letter grade.

Since partial school closures in March and the announcement of examination cancellations, teachers have worked to make sure students due to sit exams in June 2020 were not disadvantaged or prevented from progressing as planned to the next stage. The RSB is supportive of the emphasis placed on the importance of teacher judgements during this period.

Over the last few months the Society has submitted responses to Ofqual’s consultations on 2020 and 2021 exams, and submitted evidence to the House of Commons Education Select Committee inquiry on the impact of COVID-19 on education settings. In these formal documents, as well as informal discussion with the Department for Education and Ofqual, the Society highlighted potential issues with the processes proposed for awarding grades this year.

Lauren McLeod, head of education policy at the RSB, commented: “Students moving on to further, higher education and employment with qualifications this year should be confident that education institutions and employers will treat grades and qualifications as they would in any other year.

"Over the next few months we will continue to work with UK governments, regulators and exam boards to further develop policy that will help mitigate the effects of significant disruption to student education.

"We are also encouraging those departments and organisations to undertake further analysis of awarded grades and progression regarding disability, gender, race and socio-economic status, and to consider what mechanisms and adjustments can be put in place over the next three to five years.”

For students in England, an autumn exam series will be available if individuals are unhappy with their grades. Students should contact their school or centre if they wish to sit an autumn exam.

The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson, announced yesterday that students may also be able to use mock exam grades through an appeals process. Ofqual are now working to include this possibility in the recently announced appeals process.

In Northern Ireland and Wales, AS level grades still count as 40% of an A level award. For Welsh students, the Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced yesterday that AS results will act as a floor to grade awards, with revised grades being issued by the exam board WJEC as soon as possible if a students’ 2020 A level grade is lower than their AS grade in that subject.

At this time no further announcements have been made regarding awards in Northern Ireland.
The RSB welcomes the letter from Sally Collier, Ofqual Chief Regulator, to Directors of Admissions asking for flexibility and to hold places for students appealing grades this year. The Society encourages Higher Education Institutions to be sensitive to the exceptional circumstances in which these grades were awarded during their admissions and clearing processes.

Further government, regulator or exam board announcements on adjustments to decisions around grades and appeals across the UK will be collated on RSB’s education during COVID-19 webpages.