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Open Letter from the Editor. How to Manage Exam Results and Grades for Children in the Year of Coronavirus Covid-19.

Open Letter from the Editor. How to Manage Exam Results and Grades for Children in the Year of Coronavirus Covid-19.

by Jon WestleyMarch 19, 2020

A Note from the Editor: How to Manage Exam Results and Grades in the Year of Coronavirus Covid-19.

Examinations, like much of life, are being changed, cancelled, postponed and restructured.

But whichever country we are in, from whatever nationality, politics, religion or philosophy, we all agree that our children must not suffer because of Coronavirus Covid-19.

We know that examinations have been cancelled in the UK.

They will, to a lesser or greater degree, be cancelled worldwide. Across all curricular. GCSE, A’ Level, BTEC, IB, CBSE, ICSE, HSD…..

We need consistency. And no examination taken now, in the face of the coronavirus, will reflect fairly on any student.

As the KHDA states, we are all in this together. The world is in this together.

So how do we address examination results?


Our first thought was to award every child an A* in every examination. None of us know what our children would have achieved.  But we believe that every child is capable of an A* given the right pieces of the jigsaw of learning and support are all in place.

But we cannot do this. There would be an outcry. More importantly, many children would end up feeling that they did not deserve this. We cannot impose this sense of being a fraud on them.

Many are saying we should look at mock examinations and a child’s performance in coursework.

But that is no more scientific than just awarding every child an A*. It would be inaccurate, wrong and churlish.

So what is left?

Surely what we must do is create a new, special, unique grade, perhaps we can call it a “The 2020 + Pass”.

This is a time for which we have no reference in our life times.

A grade is needed to reflect this. A positive, celebratory, once-in-a-lifetime grade that recognises the value of all our children. Unites them through a grade in a common purpose and their place in history. Recognises their value, to all of us, beyond words …. and grades.

These will be the children that lived through the Coronavirus Covid 19 horror. They may not have chosen this, but they will be our shared historic emblems of survival and hope. They represent our future, and the promise that we will be ready next time to fight these pandemics in ways that we have not today.

This is no time to add to the suffering around us by adding pseudo scientific grades that in truth we all know will result in upset and error.

Let us give them a universal, once-in-a-lifetime, uplifting, single grade that recognises just how truly special all children are.

Tomorrow, the British Government will make its decision known on how to deal with this. Boards from countries across the world will watch and listen as they too grapple with the same conundrum.

Ours, we know, is unlikely to be the solution, but we use this opportunity to make the case for a more positive solution than the likely fudge based on predicted grades and nods to mock exams.

Our children will be watching… Let’s hope they award the adults a passing grade.


The views from Schools – Exam Results and Grades in the Year of Coronavirus Covid-19

Alan Williamson, Chief Executive Officer, Taaleem responded:

“The UK Education Secretary has confirmed that there will be no SATs, GCSE or A-Level exams this year but has yet to give details about how students will be graded only to say that “their path to work, sixth form or university will not be impeded”. We are awaiting further information about how GCSE and A-Levels students will be graded without any exams.

The most likely option is that students will be given a predicted grade based on their past performance. In this case, all students would still be required to complete their courses through distance learning with their current school, as the schools will be asked to validate this with their predicted grades.

Within the Taaleem family of schools, our outstanding teachers are well prepared for this eventuality and able to submit grades to the exam boards if the situation requires this action.”

Fiona Cottam, Principal, Hartland International School, told

“My personal view is that in the case of final year students, teachers have already committed to predicted grades which have been submitted to UCAS and other global bodies and universities. These grades would be reasonable to award, especially if they are in line with university offer grades, with a special disclaimer that these are as Jon says in this article, The 2020 Pass.

In the case of GCSE’s, again, teachers already have predicted grades for students and we could award the grades that these experts have already committed to.

However, whatever the solution, the real key is ensuring that we look after the mental and physical wellbeing of a cohort of young people whose sense of future is shifting in an unknown tide. They have worked so hard for the grades that they had hoped to receive come August and there will be a sense of real disappointment and loss for many.

As a parent myself of a Year 13 student, I’m equally worried about the situation. My son’s sense of anxiety is palpable today and he has a zillion questions that I can’t answer. I know that his school will support him, but I have to believe that Ofqual will provide clarity in the days ahead for us all.”

David Hicks, School Principal, Dubai International Academy Al Barsha, responded:

“Examinations have been a trusted source of information and comparison for many years now. Does this make them appropriate – likely not.

They have been tinkered with but ultimately are not significantly different, in most cases, than they were 20 or even 50 years ago – with the exception of the MYP e-assessments.

Our current situation presents challenge yet also presents opportunity, one such being an overhaul of our current examination systems. However, this can’t and should not be done as a reactionary measure, but in a calm and assured manner. We are now given the opportunity to delve deeper into skills of collaboration, resilience and resourcefulness.

In saying all of the above, we are nowhere near this yet. And so, to ensure our current students are awarded the outcomes they deserve, I suggest examination boards and universities trust the judgement of teachers, who know these students best, and the reputations of the institutions which they attend.

David Cook, Headmaster at Repton School Dubai advised:

“At Repton, a world IB school, we are not affected by any decisions over A levels in the UK. If schools are unable to carry out either ‘in school’ or online assessments, universities and other awarding bodies will look at internal school data such as school mock or trial exams, and data from internal assessments, including teacher-predicted grades.

Given the current situation, our first priority is the safety and wellbeing of our students, ensuring they are able to overcome this unprecedented time. At Repton, like all schools in the UAE, remote or online learning for the foreseeable future will provide online support for exam revision and support students with exam techniques.

We trust in the UAE education system and the Ministry of Education will consider the overall picture of summer assessments, including ‘in-school’ exams versus online assessments.


Mark Leppard MBE, Headmaster, British School Al Khubairat, advised parents:

“Yesterday the UK Education Secretary, Gavin Williams announced that the 2020 GCSE and A Level exams will not go ahead.

This news was not communicated to schools before the public announcement, so we have not got any further information at this stage.

We are in regular communication with all the exam boards and are waiting for their response. The exam boards themselves have not had time to identify clear and fair alternatives at this stage but will be focused entirely upon this situation moving forward.

Having a child myself in Year 11 and Year 13, I realise how much parents need to know the exact situation and plan moving forward. Rest assured, we will do all we can to protect children through this unprecedented time. As a school, we will do all in our powers to ensure not a single student is disadvantaged by this situation.

Until we have clearer information we would urge that students carry on with their revision programmes to ensure they are prepared for whatever alternatives the UK Government and exam boards decide upon.

We understand fully the anxiety parents and students face as this situation unfolds. Rest assured that we are fully committed to doing all we can for our students to ensure they have every opportunity to realise their full potential.

Teresa Woulfe, Head of Secondary, British School Al Khubairat states:

“Class of 2020, we will get through this.

I realise that for many of you this will be a very worrying and anxious time, this news has impacted your teachers too and they are devastated that you may not be able to complete your course of study in some of your subjects.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that no student, who was due to sit their public exams this year, will be disadvantaged and they will do their very best to make sure you achieve the qualifications needed to progress to the next stage of your lives.

You will be OK.

You have many people fighting to ensure that you are not disadvantaged. We care too much about you and your futures to let this happen if it is within our control.

Stay safe and look after yourselves.”


Since publishing this story the UK government has said that results will be based on a process that will see “teachers taking into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment” which will be given to the exam boards.  The exact process teachers will follow has not yet been decided: “clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools and colleges later.” The exam boards will combine this information (recommendation of teachers) with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information [together] to produce a calculated grade for each student.”

We know from our conversations with schools and teachers across the UAE that they will do their utmost to ensure that no student is disadvantaged by Coronavirus Covid-19 crisis. We would hope that means that an allowance is made for the possibility that all students could have increased their grades over those predicted had the examinations taken place as planned and study not been interrupted.

Finally, we understand that universities have now committed to extending every possible allowance to students to ensure that can take up places on their chosen course and university.

If you have a ground-breaking story in UAE education, please mail the News Desk 24/7 at [email protected] 

© 2020. All rights reserved.



About The Author
Jon Westley
Jon Westley is the Editor of and UK. You can email him at jonathanwestley [at]

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