Exam Results 2020 Support

Since the Secretary of State for Education announced that the 2020 exam series in England would be cancelled to help fight the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the process for fairly recognising students’ work and making sure they get their grades in time to progress has changed. How qualifications will be awarded this summer, along with guidance for colleges, students, parents and carers is all very different. This page contains helpful links and resources to ensure colleges can celebrate their students' successes, answer questions from parents and the media about the changes this year and what to do if students have issues with their results. We also provide other useful information to help you navigate A Level and Vocational results day (13 August) and GCSE results day (20 August).

Colleges and 2020 summer qualifications

Below is a summary paper setting out the distruption to A-levels, GCSEs, BTEC and other qualifications this summer.


We have put together two briefings to summarise A Level and GCSE results this year. They show the summary of changes to grades and the percentage rise compared to last year.


Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, writes letter to education providers

Skills Minister Gillian Keegan has written a letter to education providers encouraging them to hold places until students have received their final results.
Read it in full here.


Qualifications 2020 - What we know…

Just in case like us you are struggling to get your head around all the updates here is a quick reference list of what we know.

Urgent statement from Pearson regarding BTECs (updated 19/08/2020)

Following Ofqual’s announcement that A Level and GCSE students are to receive Centre Assessed Grades, Pearson have reviewed the impact on BTEC students and have decided to apply this same principle to students receiving BTECs this summer. Read the full announcement here.

Update from on GCSE and A level results (updated 18/08/2020)

There will be no substantial delay to GCSE results.

  • JCQ have confirmed that all schools and colleges will receive their results according to the published time of 00:01 on Wednesday 19 August, allowing students to receive their final grades as usual on Thursday. 
  • Awarding organisations are working to get the amended / corrected A Level results files to centres and to UCAS as quickly as possible for A Level.

Further information to follow from Ofqual and the awarding organisations later today, we will update this page as soon as we recieve anything more.

Exam results: Will the exam 'triple lock' affect me? And other questions

Our Policy experts Catherine Sezen and Eddie Playfair are offering Results Day guidance via BBC News. Follow the link for personalised advice on what to do next.


A-level results: Will learners get the 'right' grades?

'Fairness was central to this year’s approach to A-level grading – but this was a challenge', writes Eddie Playfair in TES FE News. Read the full article here.


Triple lock for students (Updated 12/08/2020)

A triple lock for students has been announced ahead of A level and GCSE results meaning students could receive the higher result out of their calculated grade, valid mock grade, or autumn exam grade to bolster fairness. You can find out more about this here and our response to the news here.


Reminder - BTEC Level 3 Nationals results day is Thursday 13 August 

Please note this reminder from Pearson about L3 BTEC (RQF) results day being Thursday 13 August, the same as A levels, this year (a few providers had assumed it would be the day before as in previous years). Like A Level results, these results are embargoed until 8am on that day. As usual, the BTEC Level 3 Nationals (QCF) results are not embargoed. This document summarises the position for Pearson’s various vocational qualifications.  


Centre Assessed Grades

Centre-assessed grades (CAGs) and rankings must not be shared with candidates ahead of results days. CAGs and pupil rankings are considered personal data and are not exempt from subject access requests (SARs) made under the Data Protection Act 2018. Given that students could now request this information through submitting a SAR, a process which can be extremely time - consuming for colleges, we are suggesting that colleges provide students with their CAGs (but not rankings) on request, eg: within a few days. This enables a supportive conversation to be had with the student in the days following results day, with a focus on their progression.

This allows students who believe they have been disadvantaged by this year’s process to find out information to which they are entitled, without introducing unnecessary confusion or delay. Waiting until the following day or week to release this information allows for a cooling-off period, and for this to take place in the context of a college-supported dialogue about next steps. You can read more advice about sharing centre-assessed grades in our guidance for colleges.

Guidance on some of the Data Protection issues is available from the Information Commissioner’s Office here.

In summary, we would advise colleges to:

  • Communicate the college’s approach clearly to students and parents in advance.
  • Agree how any requests for CAGs should be made. A template for a simple student request form is provided in the Appendix.
  • Consider how to receive and respond to these requests. This should be overseen by your Data Protection Officer and signed off by the Principal. Ensure whoever is undertaking this role fully understands your agreed process, what data can be released and to whom. 
  • Make it clear that requests for CAGs must be made by students themselves, rather than by their parents or carers.
  • Provide CAGs using a standard format. A template for this is provided in the Appendix which colleges may wish to adapt. 


How Best to Support Students

Colleges will want to do everything they can to support students to make decisions about their progression. As is the case every year, there will be students whose final grades might require a change of plan. In some cases, it may be helpful to share student CAGs, with the student’s permission, with a receiving institution such as a university as it may help them to make a judgement about modifying their offer or admission requirements. 

The later 8am lifting of the publication embargo for results on 13 August this year is to ensure that students who are waiting on university confirmations are not unsupported in the period before knowing whether their university place has been confirmed. An ‘unplaced applicants list’ will be available from UCAS at 7am and this will give schools and colleges additional time to identify applicants who have not got a firm university place. The UCAS guidance is available here.

The UCAS embargo window runs from 2pm Friday 7 August to 8am on 13 August. During this period UCAS and universities will not be able to discuss results or offers and UCAS Track will be frozen. Results for the ‘pre-existing’/legacy QCF vocational qualifications will be released before the start of the embargo so it is possible that some of these students may receive university confirmations in the days preceding the embargo.


Dissatisfaction with the grades issued by exam boards does not in itself constitute grounds for appeal, unless there is evidence that there has been a technical error by the centre or the board. Every centre will receive instructions from the exam boards including a form for appeals if they believe there has been an error, either on their own part or that of the board. Ofqual has indicated that a significant change in demographics could be grounds for appeal, e.g. a change to mixed sex from single sex designation. This is likely to be very rare. Candidates can complain to the centre about the process, for example if they believe they have suffered from discrimination. Colleges will have a complaints policy they can use for this. Candidates can also raise issues directly with the relevant exam board if they wish and further guidance on this is available from Ofqual here.

Heads of Centre are responsible for checking and declaring that results were as free from bias as possible. Colleges should be able to describe any measures they took to reduce the possibility of unconscious bias, such as reviewing the relationship between actual and predicted grades in previous years. This could also be shared with governors. Candidates entered in the summer will also have the be an opportunity to sit exams in the autumn term. 

Comms and media support 

Even though things look very different this year we still want to celebrate students’ achievements and progression publicly. AoC’s Communications Team will be raising the profile of colleges on A Level, vocational and GCSE results day across social media platforms and in the media. We are looking for students who are expected to do well. We are also looking for those who might be using their qualifications as a basis for an interesting career or furthering their studies and students who have succeeded despite the disruption caused by coronavirus but perhaps have now chosen a different route.

These case studies will be used to support AoC’s annual national PR and media activity. They will offer interesting insights for national print and broadcast media and will be used to raise the profile of colleges and the good work they do with young people.

Putting a student forward as a case study is no guarantee they will be chosen by the media, but they must be happy to be involved in media work if required. Nominating them as a national case study does not mean you cannot use them for your own local publicity and media work as well.

Please complete this form for each student (fill in all the boxes where possible) and return to comms@aoc.co.uk as soon as possible. These forms should not include any student contact details or confidential information.

Below is a press and media support document for your use when considering speaking to your local papers and writing statements. 


If you have any queries about communicating about results to parents and students this year, please get in touch with comms@aoc.co.uk.

Additional useful links

Results Day Guidance

We have put together two briefings to summarise A Level and GCSE results this year. They show the summary of changes to grades and the percentage rise compared to last year.

    • GCSE Results Briefing

    • A Level Results Briefing

    • VTQ assessment 2020 2021 Ofqual consultation – AoC draft response

    • AoC Guidance on Results Days 2020

      Guidance for colleges on A Level and GCSE results days 2020

    • AoC draft response to Ofqual consultation on vocational and technical qualification awarding summer 2020

    • AoC response to Ofqual consultation on exam grading and assessment