Students can appeal GCSE and A-levels if they believe they were victims of discrimination, under Ofqual plans

Camilla Turner
In March, the Government announced no exams would take place this summer 

GCSE and A-level students will not be allowed to appeal their predicted grades unless they believe they are the victims of discrimination or bias, under the exam watchdog's plans.

Pupils will be allowed to appeal if something “systematic” has gone wrong with their results, such as a data processing issue, Ofqual said. 

Students may also be able to appeal if they believe they have been discriminated against or if they think their school did not “behave with care or integrity” when submitting their predicted grade to the exam board. The proposals are contained in a new consultation which was published on Tuesday.

Teenagers will be allowed to appeal to exam boards if they believe there is evidence of “serious malpractise” by their school.

If students think their predicted grade is too low and believe they could have done better, they will not be allowed to appeal on these grounds but will be able to take a fresh exam in the autumn.

In March, the Government announced no exams would take place this summer and all students due to take their GCSEs and A Levels would instead receive predicted grades.

Schools had to submit predicted grades to exam boards based on a combination of pupils' mock exam results, if they have them, and other "non-exam assessment".

A moderation process will then take place and students will be awarded their final grades by the exam boards in August.

The Equality Human Rights Commission has previously warned that relying on teachers’ predictions when awarding grades carries a risk of “unconscious or conscious bias”.

Meanwhile, an equality impact carried out by Ofqual found that black and Asian students are more likely to have their grades over-predicted than their white peers, the exam watchdog has found.

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are also more likely to be given overly generous predictions by their teachers, the watchdog’s analysis found.  

Ofqual has confirmed that exam boards must put on “appeal exams” in all subjects, with AS and A-levels expected to be held in October and GCSEs in November.

The announcement prompted a backlash from headteachers, who said that it would be a "significant challenge" to accommodate exams during the autumn term while also teaching a full timetable.

University lecturers also criticised the plans, warning that the only option available to students who are unhappy with their results is to “spin the roulette wheel” by sitting  another set of exams in autumn.  

“Research has shown that disadvantaged students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to be predicted lower grades than their more affluent counterparts,” said Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, said.  “Therefore, any appeals process that does not take this into account risks entrenching these structural inequalities.”  

Sally Collier, chief regulator at Ofqual, said she is “committed to helping students and their families understand how to access an appeal or make a complaint about bias, discrimination, or another concern”. She added that an exam helpline will be set up so that students and their parents can ask about the appeals process and discuss any other concerns they have about predicted grades.