✏️  Asyia Iftikhar | @asyiaiftikhar

From students about to take their GCSEs all the way to finalists and postgraduates, education across the country has been disrupted. Whilst exams and lessons being cancelled has always been a wishful dream for students when they haven’t done their homework or revision, the reality is far more concerning. 

It is natural for young people to worry about what comes next when they have spent their entire education building up to ‘life changing’ exams. Before we do a deep dive into how students will be affected, what to expect and how it will be implemented we want to give a message to everyone reading this. 

No matter what happens, young people still matter and have the power to change the world. We will stick together, support one another and help each other through this. 

GSCEs & A Levels

According to Ofqual, (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation), a grade based on work completed throughout the year alongside student ranking, will be submitted to the appropriate exam board. None of the process will be discussed among students, parents or carers. 

Consultation on how ranking and assessment will be placed in the exam board’s framework and how grades will be standardised is still happening. They have stated that the model for standardisation will most likely look at national expected outcome and prior results for that school or college. 

However, the most important thing to take from this is that your predicted grade will not necessarily be your final grade. They reiterate in a summary guide here that multiple factors will contribute to a final grade in August including: classwork, mock results, participation, previous exam results, rank and declaration of grade from the Head of Centre. 

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Naked Politics spoke to Headteacher Leon Hady, founder of guide education, who said Whilst the advice is not exhaustive in any way and lacks tangible examples of evidence-based decision making, this should not be an alien concept to experienced teachers’. In other words, senior teachers should have the experience to follow the guidance in a fair and accurate way. 

For students who are taking vocational and technical courses, they have stated that they have many of the same aims in terms of assessment outcome. Since students have varied course lengths, grading, timetables and assessment structures, grades will be checked more on an individual level which will then be meticulously checked by the assessment centre/awarding organisation. For full details you can find them here. 


University is a far more difficult situation. Each university is implementing their own examination and assessment models at different time scales, to different degrees of success. For someone studying in Edinburgh, this means no exams. For some UCL students, it means revised exams with anywhere between 24 hours and 8 weeks to complete them. For some Warwick students, it means time-limited exams accessed on certain dates. For students in Cambridge, it means exams delayed or cancelled exams. 

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The uncertainty and pressure to submit online papers with little guidance under immense stress puts many students at a disadvantage, such as those with little access to the internet or adequate technology, those living in small apartments or busy households, and those suffering with mental health problems. For those in their final year, coping with the uncertainty of their degree, coupled with no graduation, no parties and no celebrations is gutting. 

How fair is the process and what are the long term effects? 

Since the announcement of these measures there has been concern raised by those working in the education sector about the disproportionate impact this will have on demographics often underpredicted and unfairly assessed in school, away from the support of blind marking. 

The Government’s ‘equality impact assessment’ paper concluded that the effect on teacher assessment compared to final assessment outcomes relating to student characteristics like gender, special educational needs, ethnicity and age, when present, are small and inconsistent across subjects. However, other research has shown this will cause a negative impact for disadvantaged students and Ofqual have stated that they will not directly check for bias within schools. It will be important to keep an eye on the demographic changes in university acceptances come September to see if there’s been an impact.

Since students, especially those studying A Levels, are being told that, if they would like to resit exams they will be forced to take a gap year, this is also a big change for many people’s original plans.  Especially with travel cut off for the foreseeable future and the employment sector on its knees, many young people will be affected trying to find work, courses and opportunities to support an unplanned gap year. 

Headteacher Leon Hady told us that whilst equipment had been rolled out by the government to support online learning for disadvantaged students, this did not extend to teachers and he felt that additional funding, support and recommendations should be provided on a continuing basis. 

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For those starting or returning to university in September, there will be major adjustments on both ends. For students, some universities such as Manchester and Cambridge have mentioned elements of online learning, and there will be a watering down of the fresher’s experience and making friends. For university institutions themselves, this sector is anticipating a huge loss of students, both internationally and from those who will be taking a year out. This has already resulted in universities taking action, such as Imperial College who have had to furlough staff among other measures.

The most important thing to understand is that this entire system is new, so many technicalities are unanswered and it is a process every student and teacher is experiencing together. Ofqual had opened up the option for students to submit responses to their official guidance in order to inform their system, so we will keep an eye out for when they release their findings and adjustments on the basis of their feedback.

Click here For more information on GCSE and A Level provisions:

Mind UK have a page full of comprehensive support for young people, with advice and places to contact no matter what your situation:

If you are struggling, please contact your school, college or university. 

Thanks for reading our article! We know young people’s opinions matter and really appreciate everyone who reads us.

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Last Update: July 17, 2020