The fairest approach for Year 10 learners

On Thursday 20 August 2020 learners across the UK will be receiving their ‘calculated’ GCSE results following what has been an unprecedented period.

By Philip Blaker, Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales

These results will enable our young people to embark on the next phase of their journey.  

Given that grades will be awarded for full GCSEs it’s understandable that learners who were due to sit units which contribute to GCSEs in future years - many of whom are in Year 10 - may feel disappointed to hear that they will not be awarded a unit grade. 

We’ve heard a number of concerns from people questioning this decision with learners worried that they may have wasted a year. We understand those concerns, but the learning will not have been wasted as it will have developed knowledge and understanding of the subject 

A unitised GCSE is awarded a grade  using  a combination of marks from assessments at a unit level.  Since units in different series might have slightly different levels of challenge, unit marks are converted into a Uniform Mark Scale (UMS). The UMS marks achieved in each unit are combined to generate the overall GCSE result – as a grade. 

This cannot happen in the same way next summer because this summer’s exams have been cancelled and unit-level mark data won’t be available.  

Even if we had asked centres to provide an assessment grade for individual units, these would not have counted towards the full GCSE qualification in summer 2021 because actual marks would be needed to do this. It would not have been reasonable or reliable to ask centres to provide specific marks for learners this summer. 

Given that unit results will not be available from this summer we had to consider other ways of awarding the GCSEs in summer 2021. We have therefore taken a similar approach to that taken for AS level qualifications and learners will have two options: 

  • They can choose to sit the units they planned to take in summer 2021 only, or 
  • They can choose to sit the units they were due to sit in summer 2020 in summer 2021, along with those exams planned for 2021 

If the first of the options is chosen, then performance in the GCSE units in summer 2021 will be used to calculate the marks that would most likely have been achieved in the other GCSE units planned for this summer. 

This is possible because there is a clear statistical relationship between performance in different units in normal circumstances and is the tried and tested method used to award a grade if a learner has been unable to sit a unit assessment due to illness.  

We made the second option available because it is common for year 11 learners to resit units they had taken earlier in the course, and we did not want to withhold the option of sitting these units from learners in summer 2021. However, we don’t expect the option to take all units next summer will be taken up widely. 

If a learner chooses to sit all units, they will be awarded the best grade from either route. 

We understand it’s a tough time for learners and hope this explanation helps them in understanding our decisions. 

Published 15 May 2020