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Exams - coronavirus info for families of deaf children

Published Date: 18 Aug 2020

Deaf young people and this year’s qualification results

All school and college examinations have been cancelled across the UK and many deaf young people will be receiving calculated grades this summer. This blog looks at what it means for deaf young people.

How are the calculated grades being worked out?

Teachers were expected to use a range of evidence, including teacher assessment, coursework and mock exam results to determine their students’ grades. Any final grade will have the same status as any grades given to pupils in normal years. If your child has a Teacher of the Deaf, the school or college should have asked for their advice before determining the student’s grade, taking into account the reasonable adjustments that should have been made.

Schools and colleges had to use the evidence they had to rank their students in the order they believed they would have performed best. The exam boards then calculate and moderate the final grades based on how well last year’s students performed in each exam subject.

In some cases, because of how the moderation worked, students may have received a lower grade than what had been put forward by their teacher. However, each of the UK Governments has now said that the teacher assessed grade will be used if this is higher than the moderated grade. Whilst this is good news for many students, there are still concerns about how grades were assessed by teachers for deaf young people.

What does this mean for deaf young people?

We don’t know what impact using teacher assessments in this way will have on deaf young people’s grades. Some deaf students find exams harder than hearing students because they require you to memorise sentences and phrases. Therefore, being assessed on coursework or classroom performance might be a good thing.

However, some students are worried that they may be graded based on their performance in situations that were not fully accessible to them. Or they fear their teachers might have limited expectations for them.

Can we challenge the results?

In England, it will be possible for a young person or their family to complain to their school or college on the grounds of discrimination or malpractice if they believe they have not been graded fairly. Alternatively, you can complain to the exam board if you believe the school has not followed the correct processes. If there is good evidence that a student has been unfairly graded, we understand it will be possible for an exam board to correct the result.

We are expecting Ofqual to produce more detail on how these appeal arrangements will work in practice.

In Scotland, there will be an appeals service set up for schools and colleges to request reviews of grades awarded. Students can contact their school or college to ask for a result to be reconsidered.

In Wales, Qualifications Wales have announced that, in instances where learners feel their centres have demonstrated bias, discrimination or malpractice, an appeal will be allowed to the awarding body. Concerns can also be raised with the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

In Northern Ireland, schools and colleges will be able to request reviews of grades awarded. Schools and colleges must have an internal process for a student to challenge the centre’s decision not to appeal a result.

If you challenge a result, good evidence will be required. It will take time to collect the evidence so do think this in advance of the results,  what evidence the school/college has used. Did they take on board a Teacher of the Deaf’s advice? Were mock exams accessible to your child? Did they get the support they needed to complete any coursework? Given the time it takes to gather evidence, we suggest that parents proactively begin this process.

Do we have any other options?

This varies depending on which UK nation you live in. In England, students are being told that if they are not happy with their results when they are released in August, they can take written exams in the autumn at the school/college where your child’s exams were cancelled. However, the results would not be available until December.

In Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland, students will not expected to be given the option to take a full set of exams until next summer.

What if my child needs specific grades to do the courses they want to take next?

If your child’s grades are not high enough then they might not be able to move onto their first choice of programme or institution. This will be up to an education provider to decide whether to admit your child. They are allowed to set entry requirements for their programmes but these do need to be fair and reasonable.

If you fear that your child will not achieve the required grades, we advise you and your child not to delay thinking about alternative options until the exam results come out.

Where can I go for more info or advice on exams?

If you fear that your child will not get grade they deserved, please do get in touch with our helpline or encourage your child to do so.

Further information on examinations and assessments can be found on the UK Government websites:

What about vocational qualifications?

A similar approach is being taken for vocational qualifications. Teachers will be asked to calculate an expected grade, drawing from a range of evidence including results of previous assessments taken. However, there will be some qualifications where some kind of assessment will still be required. This will generally be for qualifications where very specific skills are required to enter a particular profession. If your child has had to take an assessment that has been adapted (e.g. put online), it should have been fully accessible. If not, please contact our helpline for further advice.

Further information on arrangements for vocational qualifications is available from the following Government websites: