Concern proposed appeals process for predicted GCSE, AS and A Level grades excludes young people

21 May 2020 News
GCSE Examination

Responding to the CCEA consultation on the appeals process for this summer’s awarding of exam results, Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,

“Whilst I welcome CCEA moving quickly to provide clarity to young people about the exams, I am concerned young people’s rights are not protected in the proposed appeals arrangements and it is not acceptable that there is little to no opportunity for young people to exercise their right to appeal.”

In consultation with her Youth Panel, a group of young people who advise the Commissioner on her work, the response indicates young people are concerned about the potential for teacher bias; the variation and range in evidence upon which teachers and schools will make their assessments; how schools and CCEA will standardise grades and whether the final grades will be a fair and accurate representation of what students would have achieved, had they been able to sit their exams.

Disappointment is also expressed by the Commissioner and her Youth Panel about the inaccessibility of CCEA’s consultation process for young people and they state that this may have deterred young people from fully understanding and responding to the process.

A year 14 pupil and a member of the Commissioner’s Youth Panel, said,

“Young People are concerned about whether the process will be fair, robust, and accurate. We have queries about the evidence that will be used by teachers to predict grades, for example some of our members were asked to submit coursework and take part in other internal assessments after schools were directed to stop this, while other member’s schools complied.

“Many of us are frustrated that we may be unfairly disadvantaged. Remote learning is not the same as face-to-face, and we are worried about the impact of lost teaching time on our ‘would be’ final grades. AS students have particular concerns that their progress this year will not count towards their final A level result.

“Now, it is essential that a robust, fair, and transparent appeals process is provided for us. This must safeguard our rights and best interests, and provide us with opportunities for our views to be heard and taken into account.”

Koulla continued, “For the first time, grades are being based almost entirely on teacher and school judgement. Whilst NICCY wishes to acknowledge teachers’ professionalism, expertise, and hard work, particularly in these challenging times, I and my panel members are concerned that omitting this main component of determining grades from the appeals process is unjust.”

The Commissioner calls for more information about the ‘statistical standardisation model’, how the model operates; greater detail on the type and range of evidence that it uses; how it combines the evidence to accurately standardise school assessment grades including how and the extent to which it removes potential bias; and the balance of weight given to historical evidence of school performance (given the prior attainment of learners) versus the grades submitted by the school this year.

Koulla concluded, “I am deeply concerned that students who have experienced illness or trauma will not have these ‘extenuating circumstances’ taken into account this year. The potential disadvantage for these students will be all the more exacerbated if they do not have the right to appeal. This must be addressed as a matter of priority.

“It is quite evident that CCEA’s proposals do not provide equality of opportunity for young people to appeal.

“There is a lot more work to do in refining these proposals and I look forward to continuing my work with CCEA to do just that”


Notes to Editors

  • Please contact the Communications Team at NICCY on or 07917 544 177 for further information or interview bids. Interviews available with the Commissioner and an anonymised interview is available with one of the young people who advised on this response.
  • You can see the full consultation response here.