Decision to hold back January GCSE English grades may hit university applications

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There are fears that some applicants may be denied a place at university next summer because of Ofqual's decision not to release the final grades for January's English GCSE exams until August.

There are fears that some applicants may be denied a place at university next summer because of Ofqual’s decision not to release the final grades for January’s English GCSE exams until August.

The anomaly has been spotted by Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Luton, where a handful of students will be affected.

Under changes announced by Ofqual, while raw marks will be published after January’s exams, grade boundaries will be held back until the summer. The watchdog said: “All further work on setting standards and grading will be carried out following the June exam series.”

It means that students sitting their English exams in January will not discover their grade until GCSE results day in August – a week after A level results day. This means anyone who needs their GCSE English result to get into university might miss out.

Fleur Musonda, deputy head at Cardinal Newman, has written to Ofqual. She said that some of her students are special needs pupils who struggled with literacy earlier in school, while others were immigrants who were doing well in A levels but were still catching up with proficiency in English.

Ms Musonda wrote: “I am not sure how familiar you are with A level results day but my experience is that students will be rejected on the day if they have not met the university’s entrance requirements.” She told SecEd: “Every school will have at least one and maybe more students in this situation, and colleges will have many more. 

“It is terrible and very worrying for these students. They won’t know if they have passed in January, or need to retake the examination in May to be sure of their university place.”

Ms Musonda has contacted the Association of School and College Leaders, which is to write to UCAS outlining the problem. Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary, said: “We would advise schools and colleges with students in this situation to contact the admissions tutors directly alerting them in advance that these students won’t have their English results in time and to ask them to keep the place open for them.”

A spokesman for UCAS said that students usually had until the end of August to prove they had met all the requirements for entry.

An Ofqual spokesperson said: “Ofqual has liaised with UCAS over the changes and we think it is unlikely that any students sitting papers in January will be significantly disadvantaged in any way. For those who enter a written exam in January, they will be able to enter again in June if they are not satisfied with their mark. We would encourage any students who are concerned to speak directly with their teachers and UCAS.”

Elsewhere this week, a group of headteachers has filed a Freedom of Information request in a bid to get Ofqual to publish more information from the GCSE inquiry. Ofqual, however, says there is nothing else to publish from the investigation. Read the story here.


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