Education Secretary’s instructions to Ofqual

3 April 2020

In the context of the coronavirus crisis, a direction has been sent by Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, to Sally Collier, Chief Regulator of Ofqual, about calculating summer 2020 grades in lieu of exam results.

The direction, available here, has been published under section 129(6) of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009.

Mr Williamson notes that the education system and the whole country faces unprecedented challenges in dealing with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am determined that we should address this situation using all necessary measures to protect our nation’s health,” he told Ms Collier, “while at the same time ensuring that the educational progress of our young people faces as little disruption as possible.”

He notes that the purpose of his letter is to direct Ofqual in relation to the Government's policy that the 2020 summer exam series for GCSEs, AS and A levels in England cannot proceed as planned.

Mr Williamson then explains why postponing the exams would risk prolonging the disruption experienced by students into the next academic year and would have significant repercussions for schools, further and higher education providers, and employers.

He highlights that it is Government policy that this year's cohort of GCSE, AS and A level students be issued a set of results this summer in order to allow them to progress to further study or employment.

“In order to mitigate the risk to standards as far as possible,” the Education Secretary continues, “the approach should be standardised across centres. Ofqual should also mandate the method of calculating final grades based on the evidence provided for each student.”

Ofqual should develop an appeal process, the letter states, which must be focused on whether the process used the right data and was correctly applied, rather than seeking to overturn teachers’ professional judgement on individual students’ ability.

It also makes clear that students who do not feel their calculated grade reflects their ability should be afforded an opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity and calls on Ofqual to work with the exam boards and others to plan to enable this group of students to sit exams as soon as reasonably possible.

Mr Williamson concludes that he will be writing separately about the arrangements for vocational and technical qualifications.