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Exams & Achievement

Following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK government has decided that the Summer 2021 examination series will not go ahead as planned. Instead, teachers will determine grades, based upon a range of evidence verified by the school.

These results will then be reviewed by the exam boards who designed each course, before awarding the final grades which reflect performance on content that has been taught, and allow students to confidently progress to the next stage of their education.

How Students will be Assessed

Teachers will initially determine student grades, which will then be reviewed by the school. The professional judgement of teachers will only be based on what has been taught and teachers will use a range of evidence from across the course of study to make their decision. Teachers can assess students based on:

  • Records of performance on the content taught over the entire course of study.
  • Non-exam assessment, often referred to as coursework or internal assessments, even if students have not fully completed it.
  • Work produced in tasks set by the school that reflects the specification, format and marking of exam boards. This could include substantial classwork, homework, internal tests or mock exams.
  • Schools and colleges also have the option to set tests for students in order to gather further evidence. Teachers can develop these tests or use assessment materials provided by the exam boards. Importantly, these tests are not formal exams, nor are they designed to play the role of exams.

Teachers do not need to assess students on every aspect of each subject. They just need a range of evidence that shows performance on the aspects taught.

In most cases, the range of evidence that teachers use to inform student grades will be consistent across the class or cohort for each qualification. However, the school may decide that a different range of evidence may be more appropriate to fairly inform grades, if, for example, a student has missed significantly more teaching than others in the class.

Keeping Students in the know

Teachers will tell students which pieces of work will be used as evidence to inform an overall grade. Students will have the opportunity to raise any concerns about the evidence being used, for example, if the evidence was affected by personal circumstances, such as illness. Teachers will make the final judgement about what evidence is to be included - this is not a negotiation. Teachers will not be able to tell you the grade they have submitted to the exam board.

How is the evidence used?

No single piece of evidence will necessarily be more important than another, as teachers will be assessing students based on a range of evidence that can give an overall picture of performance.

Ofqual has issued separate guidance to schools, colleges and teachers about the submission of teacher assessed grades, including the evidence that can be used.

Determining grades

Once all the evidence is selected and assessments are complete, teachers will decide on an overall grade. They will do this objectively – so, if students are performing consistently at a grade 4 standard in a subject at GCSE, students should be awarded a grade 4. Exam boards will provide further advice and guidance to show the standard of work expected for particular grades, including additional grade descriptors, to supplement those previously published by Ofqual.

It is important to say that much like with exams in normal years, the grades issued by teachers, schools and colleges will not take account of potential. They will be a snapshot of the standard students are performing at based on a wide range of evidence. It should be no easier or harder to achieve a grade this year based on performance than in previous years.

What happens after a teacher determines a grade?

Once a teacher has determined a grade, it will be reviewed by other teachers in the school, so grades are determined consistently with the school’s policy. Exam boards will check these policies to make sure they meet their requirements.

Reasonable adjustments, access arrangements and special consideration

If you have special educational needs, and/or are disabled, and require reasonable adjustments, the school should have ensured that these were in place when evidence was gathered. Where appropriate reasonable adjustments were not in place when you took an assessment that is being used as evidence, your teacher should take that into account when determining your grade. The school could also consider whether other evidence could be used instead.

Special consideration requests will not apply in the usual way this summer because students will not be taking exams. If a student thinks that their performance in an assessment has been affected by illness or personal circumstances, they should talk to the school about this as soon as possible. It is important that students raise any such instances before the school or college submits the grade.

If students have any questions about how their personal circumstances will be taken into account or want to raise anything with the school, now is the best time to speak to them. Students should not wait until after they get their results.

When will grades be released and what happens next?

GCSE Students will receive their results on Thursday 12 August 2021


Although everyone will be working hard to make sure students are issued with the correct grades on results day, there will also be an appeals system as a safety net to fix any genuine errors that were not identified earlier on.

If students believe an error has been made in determining their grade, they will have a right to appeal.

There are two stages to the appeals process:

Stage 1: centre review

If a students don’t think they have been issued with the correct grade, they can appeal to the school, who will review whether they:

  • made an administrative error, e.g. they submitted an incorrect grade; they used an incorrect assessment mark when determining your grade.
  • did not apply a procedure correctly, e.g. they did not follow their Centre Policy, did not undertake internal quality assurance, did not take account of access arrangements or mitigating circumstances, such as illness.


To help students decide whether to appeal, they can request that the school shares with them the following information on results day if not before:

  • the Centre Policy
  • the sources of evidence used to determine the grade along with any grades/marks associated with them
  • details of any special circumstances that have been taken into account in determining the grade, e.g. access arrangements, mitigating circumstances such as illness


Stage 2: appeal to the exam board

If students still don’t think they have the correct grade after the centre review is complete, they can ask the school to appeal to the exam board, who will review whether

  • the school made an unreasonable exercise of academic judgement in the choice of evidence from which they determined the grade and/or in the determination of the grade from that evidence.
  • the school did not apply a procedure correctly, e.g. they did not follow the Centre Policy, did not undertake internal quality assurance, did not take account of access arrangements or mitigating circumstances, such as illness.
  • the exam board made an administrative error, e.g. they changed the grade during the processing of grades.

At both stages of the process students will need to submit the appeal to the school and give them written consent to conduct the appeal or submit it to the exam board on your behalf. It’s important to remember that grades can go down, up or stay the same through either stage of the process.

Finally, if students believe the exam board has made a procedural error in handling an appeal, they can apply to Ofqual’s Exam Procedures Review Service to review the process undertaken by the exam board.