Students will be able to use their mock exam results to progress to university, college and employment if they are higher than their awarded A-level or GCSE grades, the education secretary is to announce.
Pupils will also be able to choose to resit their exams in autumn if they are unhappy with their mock grades and the results they receive on Thursday, Gavin Williamson will say, as he announces £30m in funding to help schools and colleges facilitate resits.
With this year’s summer exams cancelled amid months of coronavirus disruption, teachers were told to submit the grades they thought each student would have received if they had sat the papers.
Exam boards have moderated these grades to ensure this year’s results – for students in England, Northern Ireland and Wales – are not significantly higher than previous years.
But unions have urged Westminster to follow Scotland’s lead in scrapping moderated grades after Holyrood was forced to reverse the downgrading of more than 124,000 results, which would revert to the grades estimated by pupils’ teachers.
“Every young person waiting for their results wants to know they have been treated fairly,” Mr Williamson said.
“By ensuring students have the safety net of their mock results, as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams, we are creating a triple lock process to ensure they can have the confidence to take the next step forward in work or education.”
All three grades will hold the same value with universities, colleges and employers, the Department for Education (DfE) is expected to say.
For those wishing to use their mock results, evidence will need to be presented to satisfy exam boards that the exam was genuine.
The appeals process – where individual students in England are dependent on schools and colleges to appeal against results on their behalf – is expected to remain the same.
The announcement comes after Labour raised concerns that A-level and GCSE results could be downgraded for thousands of pupils in England because of the moderation system.
“The SNP have been forced into a humiliating U-turn after a shambolic few days,” said Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
“With 24 hours before results are released, I would urge the prime minister to change course, or he risks robbing a generation of their future.”
Some critics of the moderation system said the new “triple lock” did not go far enough, accusing ministers of using the last-minute scheme as a “get out of jail free card”, according to The Telegraph.
“It looks as if Scotland has got it right and we are going to get it wrong,” former education secretary Lord Baker told the paper. ”The people who suffer by general downgrading are the brightest students in the poorest schools.
“Scotland makes it exceptionally difficult for the prime minister, it is very awkward. It’s egg on face, there is no question about that.”
However, headteachers and teachers told The Independent on Tuesday that they hoped England would not follow suit after its own results day and instead stick with the planned moderation for grades.
“We need to give our students confidence that the grades that have been standardised, are moderated, and that they are a true reflection of their ability,” said Pepe Di’Iasio, a headteacher in Rotherham.
“What we shouldn’t do is give any sense of uncertainty right now that provokes the storm has taken place in Scotland.”
“What we don’t want is people being able to say, or naysayers saying in a year’s time or even on the day, they got that result but they didn’t deserve it or it was harder in my day,” he added. “That is the bit that worries me most.”
Additional reporting by PA
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