Will GCSE and A Level results 2020 mean anything?

In just a few days, hundreds of thousands of students will get their A Level results. A week later, around 700,000 young people, including my own younger son, will get their GCSE results.

But, unless you’ve been living under a rock since March, you will know that not a single one of those students actually sat an exam.

Results will be based on teacher assessments, including mocks and overall performance during the year. They will be moderated by the powers that be, to come up with the closest-to-accurate-as-possible results for those hundreds of thousands of teenagers.

But they’re never going to be quite right. Because they haven’t sat GCSE and A Level exams. Of course exam boards will do their best to compare a child at school A with a child at school B to ensure results are fair and consistent across the board, but there will be winners and losers.

The winners of course will be the kids who work hard all year round and struggle with exams.

The losers will be the ones who don’t work very hard all year round, then cram hard and do well in exams. My own 19 year old son would be the perfect example of this. We know that he wouldn’t have done half as well in his A Levels if he had been from the class of 2020.

Statistically, it is boys who fall into this latter category. And my younger son is the first to admit it applies to him. He does very little revision for end of year exams and mocks, and no revision at all for regular tests. He’s far from alone in that.

He says he would definitely have revised a bit more for his mocks if he’d realised that would be his only chance to shine. I’m sure thousands of other young people are saying exactly the same thing.

As parents and students, we can only hope that exam boards take into account the progression from mocks to the real thing, including any statistical differences between boys and girls, between different ethnic groups, between children living in poverty and those from more affluent backgrounds and any other important factors.

My son’s school has fairly high entry requirements to get back into sixth form – 57 points from the top eight GCSEs – that’s the equivalent of 7 grade 7s (old A) and a grade 8 (old A*). All students were advised to apply for a back-up school and my son applied to his sister’s school, where his brother really thrived in the sixth form.

At parents’ evening, a few weeks before lockdown, most of the teachers said they thought my son would probably get 9s at GCSE (top grade, equivalent to a high A*). If he’d taken exams, of course there would be a chance for him to slip up and not get these grades. Likewise, if he’d taken exams there would have been the chance to really prove himself and make sure he got those grades.

Because of the predicted grade 9s, we know he’s not going to slip and need his back-up school, but we also know that he might not get the top grades he’s actually capable of.

So do the results really matter?

Of course they matter. They are still the result of two years of work. They will still help kids move onto the next stage of their education or of life – whether that is 6th form, college, university, apprenticeship or a job.

But there will always be that question mark over them. For my own son, he isn’t bothered about his results. He feels he hasn’t worked for them and they won’t be quite real. But they are as real as they are going to get right now.

Although for the rest of their lives, the class of 2020 will be remembered as the kids who didn’t do their GCSE or A Level exams.

GCSE, A Level, Exams, GCSE results, 2020

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. True, not everyone takes their mocks seriously. I didn’t even give half my mocks because our teachers said there’s no point in attempting them. So far the results of this year are not very fairly done. I hope your son’s result turns out well

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    • Sorry to hear that your results haven’t been done fairly. Thank you! We will see what the results are for my son in just over a week.

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  2. I think the results are only going to matter to those who can’t get on to the next stage that they want – as that is all they are for. I guess it is easier for me because home education has really made me value different things. At least for these children they were only a few months away and I am sure the teachers had a good idea of where they should be. But there’s no allowances for next year’s students, and that I feel is harsh (not just because it applies to one of mine).

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    • You’re right about them mattering for getting onto the next stage. My son certainly isn’t bothered about his, but I know others are really anxious. From what all the news reports have said (although I know these things can be exaggerated), it sounds like it’s not just down to the teachers and they can be overruled.
      There definitely should be allowances for next year’s students. This year’s year 11s and 13s didn’t miss much of their syllabus, whereas the year 10s and 12s have missed a lot of time in school.

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  3. They will definitely be known as the class of 2020 who never took exams.

    Morgan seems quite chilled about Thursday but as a parent I really want the results that he deserves. But as far as he is concerned he has the next step sorted and doesn’t need the grades. I have just heard that the Scottish kids will be having their exams upgraded, I have a feeling this could also happen in England as well, but we shall see.

    Best of luck to your son for the 20th August x

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    • Thanks very much. Good luck to Morgan too! I’m glad he’s feeling chilled about it, it must be easier because he knows he’s got his university place. I know what you mean though, I would like to see my son get the grades I think he deserves.
      It’s interesting about the u-turn in Scotland. No doubt that will influence what happens in England too. x

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  4. I have been in the second of your categories all my life. I’ve always been a last minute crammer. I would have been absolutely screwed if I’d been in the year group to take A-levels this year. Not so much GCSEs, I hadn’t really learned how to learn when I took those anyway. Covid has really changed my attitude to my children’s schoolwork. I will be more strict with them in high school in trying to make sure they work hard throughout rather than just for exams like I did. That said, I don’t think that your son and his peers will be remembered as the year group who didn’t take exams. I don’t really remember a time in my life beyond applying for A Levels where anybody cared about my GCSE results. In fact, I don’t really recall anybody caring about my A-level results either. The same thing will happen about the fact they haven’t taken them, it won’t matter in years to come. It never means much once you’ve moved onto the next thing, they’re just a means to an end.

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    • It’s interesting that coronavirus has changed the way you think about your children’s schoolwork. I must admit I’ve never found the magic formula to getting a reluctant boy to do his work – and I have two of those!
      I think you make a good point that they won’t be remembered forever as the kids who didn’t take their exams, but they will probably be remembered for it for a few years. I think it’s harder on the kids doing A Levels as they stay with you for longer than GCSEs ie you do need to share your A Level results on job applications for at least the first few years, and possibly longer if you don’t do a degree. x

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