Coronavirus: 'Widespread chaos' predicted as UK exam results released with last-minute changes

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By Euronews  with AP
Exams were cancelled earlier this year during the coronavirus outbreak
Exams were cancelled earlier this year during the coronavirus outbreak   -   Copyright  Pixabay

The British government's last-minute changes to this year's school exam results procedure have been criticised for potentially causing "widespread chaos" as students across the country collect their grades on Thursday.

GCSE and A Level grades, which are crucial for higher education and employment applications, are, this year, based on moderated predictions from teachers in place of exams cancelled due to coronavirus.

But as students went to collect their results on Thursday morning, a number of schools up and down the country have complained that moderators had downgraded marks unexpectedly.

One headteacher at a Sixth Form College told The Guardian he felt "shock, anger, dismay, disbelief" after seeing results downgraded.

He said: "We seem to have the worst results we’ve had in the last three years. I’m pretty cut up.

"I feel like I’ve let them down. I don’t know what else we could have done. We followed all the guidance. We did everything they said. We didn’t inflate grades."

It comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson revealed last-minute changes on Tuesday to the procedure should students be unhappy with their results - saying they would be able to use their mock exam results as the basis of appeal.

They will also have the option to retake exams in the autumn months.

But this move has sparked widespread confusion, with universities arguing the process is unclear and Labour leader Keir Starmer predicting "widespread chaos".

It could also cause a "massive inconsistency" in results, said Geoff Barton, general secretary of teaching union Association of School and College Leaders, who pointed out that mock exams are not standardised and can hugely vary.

Many students also wouldn't have sat them before schools closed in March - and could therefore be disadvantaged.

Despite this, Williamson has stuck by his decision, saying on Wednesday night that he believed the government had "got the balance of the system absolutely right".

Scotland, too, has experienced its own confusion after the government was forced to U-turn on a system of moderating grades after it was arguing that it could discriminate against students from deprived backgrounds.

Grades in Scotland will now be based on teachers' predictions.

Meanwhile, in France, a record 91% of students passed their Baccalaureat after grades were based on marks throughout the year.

Comparing this to a 77% pass rate the previous year, it has led to concerns among graduates that this year's qualifications won't be taken as seriously as others.