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Results are out! What next?

Published Date: 04 Aug 2021

What’s happening with results and appeals in 2021?

The week starting 9th August is a big one for thousands of deaf teenagers across the UK receiving their qualification results. Whatever they have been taking – GCSEs, BTECs, Nationals, A-levels, NVQs, Highers, the results are coming out during this week.

This year has been quite different with exams cancelled and grades based on teacher assessments. For some deaf young people, this may have been good news – they might prefer their teachers grading them rather than the pressure of a single exam. However, it may cause anxiety for some who aren’t sure whether their teachers will grade them fairly, thought the assessments weren’t accessible or feel that they have missed out on too much of their education over the past year to be able to prove themselves to their teachers.

There has been a lot of flexibility given to schools and colleges in what evidence they decide to use in order to grade a student. They can use mock exams, coursework or test results. Reasonable adjustments must have been made to ensure that deaf students were not disadvantaged by the assessment arrangements. For example, if a deaf young person needs more time to read exam questions for reasons linked to being deaf, then they should have had extra time in mock exams or classroom tests.

Was my child fairly graded?

Your child’s teachers should have told them what evidence was used for grading. If reasonable adjustments were not put in place for any assessment, then this can be used as a reason for the appeal. Examples could include:

  • Not putting in place 25% extra time for mock exams or tests, if your child would have expected to receive this for exams in normal circumstances
  • Giving verbal instructions to a test or coursework that were not understood by your child
  • Assessing your child for work done in situations that were difficult for them to access (e.g. taking part in group work in a noisy environment)
  • If your child uses British Sign Language (BSL) as their main language, not providing BSL interpretation of questions or instructions for mock exams or assignments.

Schools and colleges were asked to consult with any specialists working with deaf young people - Teachers of the Deaf (ToD) - on the evidence used for grading. If your child is in a mainstream school or college and has a ToD, ask them whether they have been consulted or not.

If your child believes they have not been fairly graded, what can they do?

They will be able to appeal their results and should contact their school or college as soon as possible (before 16th August for priority appeals or 3rd September for non-priority appeals in England) to carry out an internal review. Deadlines vary slightly between countries. Families in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should check their deadlines using the links to further info below.

When using the appeals process, you or your child should provide as much information as possible as to why the grading was unfair. You and your child should think about the following:

  • Why was the evidence (e.g. mock exam, coursework) used for grading unfair?
  • Were any reasonable adjustments missing when the evidence was collected?
  • Was your child’s ToD (or other specialist who supports them with their education) consulted about the evidence used for grading?
  • Was there any alternative evidence teachers could have used (e.g. a piece of coursework that proved your child was at a particular standard instead of a mock exam)?

If after the internal review, a grade is not changed and your child still believes they have been treated unfairly, they can appeal to an exam board. The exam board will then assess whether the teachers have used the right evidence for grading and given the correct grade.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland if your child is still not happy with the decision made by an exam board, they can take their appeal to the Exams Procedures Review Service where the exams regulator for their country will look at the case.

Note that a review of a result can lead to the grade being lowered as well being raised. If your child has achieved the grades necessary for the next step in their education or working journey, they may need to weigh up whether it is worth appealing a result they’re not fully happy with.

What if there’s no evidence that my child performed at the standard needed?

In order to award a certain grade, teachers will need to have evidence that a student has performed at the standard required for that grade. If there’s no evidence, then teachers or exam boards are not able to award the grade even if the reason there was no evidence is because they were unable to participate in school/college during the pandemic.

This may seem particularly harsh to families of deaf young people who have not been able to properly participate in education during the pandemic due to face covering and difficulties accessing online classes. However, these factors aren’t taken into consideration when grading students.

Is there anything else that can be done?

In England, there will be an autumn exam series whereby students can take normal exams. For these, access arrangements such as extra time or BSL interpretation must be made available where required.

If you or your child believes they missed out on too much learning in the past year, they may want to talk to their school or college about repeating a year. This is not always possible or desirable but is a route that some students take, particularly those aged 18 taking a third year in college or sixth form.

If you or your child has been treated unfairly during assessments, you can complain about a school or college to the exam board for ‘malpractice’. This will not change a result but could help ensure any discrimination doesn’t happen again.

Your child can also complain to the school/college through its complaints procedure and may consider making a disability discrimination claim. See our pages on The Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales and Rights to Equality in Northern Ireland for more information.

Are the arrangements the same for vocational qualifications?

This depends on the qualification. Not all vocational qualifications involve exams. For some qualifications coursework would have been marked by teachers anyway and already have appeals processes in place. For some courses, adapted assessments have taken place – these might be practical assessments that have been moved online. If you believe your child has taken any adapted assessment that was not properly accessible to them, contact our helpline for further advice.

What if my child does not have the grades to do what they want to do next?

Do not despair. Deaf people work in a wide range of roles and some may not have done well in school exams. Despite this they have gone on to work in fulfilling careers. See our Deaf Works Everywhere YouTube channel for inspiration.

It is also possible to continue studying. Colleges can get funding from the Government to cover the cost of additional support or technology to enable deaf learners of all ages to access courses.

Information on appeals processes in each of the UK’s four countries:


England (BSL)



Northern Ireland