A parent’s guide to GCSE results and GCSE results day

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  • GCSE results are a nerve-wracking time for your teen, and as parents it's been so blooming long since you did exams that you find it hard to make head or tail of the results, what they mean and what the options are afterwards.

    Here, we explain in simple terms exactly what will happen when the GCSE results are released, what your teen’s options are next and what to do if they haven’t achieved the grades needed to take them to AS and A levels or get into college.

    When do GCSE results come out for 2020?

    This year GCSE results come out today, on August 20.

    There might be some disappointed teens out there but there’s no need for them to feel down. There are many routes to success and getting glittering results isn’t the only way.

    Our guide explains how you can understand your teen’s results and what their options are if they don’t get what they want, especially this year when things have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic cancelling all exams.

    Understanding the new 9-1 GCSE grading system

    In 2017, a new 9 to 1 scoring system was introduced for the subjects English Literature, English Language and Maths, with 9 at the higher end and 1 at the lowest. Phasing in over the years, from 2019 the grading system was used on almost all of the subjects on the curriculum, including languages and sciences.

    Northern Ireland and Wales will not be affected by the change and Ofqual has assured parents that children will not be disadvantaged by the change.

    Here’s how the numbers work and what their equivalents would be…

    • 9 = A*
    • 8 = low A* / high A
    • 7 = A
    • 6 = B
    • 5 = low B / high C (strong pass)
    • 4 = C (standard pass)
    • 3 = between grades D and E
    • 2 = between grades E and F
    • 1 = between grades F and G
    • U = U (fail)
    GCSE results

    Credit: Getty

    How have GCSE grades been decided this year?

    Due to all exams being cancelled on March 18 this year and a flawed algorithm disrupting a number of A-level results across the country over the last week, GCSE grades will be those given by schools. Otherwise known as Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs), these grades are the subject teacher’s judgement of the grade the student would have received, if they took the exam this year as normal.

    Previously, exam results were to be decided on a combination of CAGs, moderation through an algorithm and mock exam results.

    While teachers were asked to consider a wide range of evidence, the exam boards warned schools that if they believed a school was being too harsh or too lenient with grade, they would moderate them in comparison to others across the board and edit the grades.

    As students in Scotland received their exams results last week, the system proved to be ineffective as large numbers of students were reportedly given grades significantly lower than what they expected. The system was scrapped and students received the predicted grades given by teachers.

    Following this, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced on August 12 that students in England would be able to use their mock exam grade as their final grade if it was higher than the moderated grade they received on results day. England, Wales and Northern Ireland have now followed Scotland and scrapped the algorithm completely, relying on teachers’ predicted grades for final GCSE exam results.

    But it’s important to note that if students aren’t happy with their result, they do also have the opportunity to sit their exam in the autumn and receive that grade or appeal their GCSE exam results if results can be proven to be wrong.

    GCSE results day

    On GCSE results day, your teen normally would have been able to collect their results from school. It’s more than likely that this year, they will have to access them online.  Your school or teachers should inform students in advance from what time results will be available, and as results day happens in the school holidays, don’t forget to find out what time the school will close if you can collect them in person, so you don’t miss out.

    If your child can’t make results day, they can nominate someone to collect them on their behalf. Your teen will need to provide them with a signed letter of consent, naming the person they’ve elected. They’ll also need to take along suitable ID, if you are allowed to go into school to collect results. Most schools won’t tell you your results over the phone, by email or fax, however given recent events this might have changed.

    If you’re worried about collecting results, contact your school and find out your options.

    What they’ll receive

    Your child will receive their GCSE results on a slip, or they may have more than one slip per exam board. Since the changes to examinations, you’ll no longer receive a unit per module, your child will simply receive an overall mark and grade for each subject.

    GCSE certificate

    Your child’s certificate will be sent to the school about three months after results day. Make sure you collect it or have it posted to you as soon as possible. You might need it to show to any future employers or further education establishments and costs money to replace.

    If you notice any mistakes you must inform your exams officer as soon as possible as changes are only free in the first three months of issue.

    GCSE results

    Credit: Getty

    Results are in: What next?

    You’re more likely to be able to go into Further Education or get a good job if you have five or more GCSEs at grade 4 or above. Many sixth-forms and colleges do expect at least 4 grades but some schools may take pupils with lower grades, so it’s worth giving them a call to check. Remember there is plenty of time for your teen to decide so don’t rush any decisions.

    A spokesperson from Times Higher Education said: ‘The first thing to remember is that you have plenty of options depending on how results day went. Try not to worry if things didn’t quite go the way you had planned.’

    Other options include:

    • Retaking exams – it’s possible to retake your GCSEs. Normally English and Maths can be retaken in November and the rest the following summer. It has also been an option to resit some GCSEs alongside AS levels or other further education. This year, an autumn exam session has been agreed upon by the government to give all those students taking their A-levels and GCSEs a chance to take their exams.

    A spokesperson from Times Higher Education said: ‘The first thing would be to consider what you want to gain from the exam resit and whether you think it will be possible. Most students will be looking to get a higher grade and so you will have to think about whether this is something you could realistically achieve. Have an honest discussion with your teacher about whether you would be able to improve on your current grade. Some resits will also require a payment so make sure that you are able to provide that too.’

    • Vocational options such as BTECS or OCR Nationals and GNVQs – these have lower entry requirements and some are accepted by universities. There are hundreds to choose from and they mix theory and practical-based work. Many people are choosing vocational qualifications instead of A-levels as they are more focused toward a particular career and give you hands-on experience.
    • Try another college or school – if you choose a second option and give them a call they may be able to accommodate you.
    • Apprenticeships – these are a great way to gain entry into the work place whilst still learning.
    • Getting a job – there is the option of going straight into work. Many people work their way up the career ladder – but think about your chosen career and how far you’d be able to progress without further qualifications.

    For more help and advice call The Exam Results Helpline on 0808 100 8000 for Scotland and 0800 100 900 for the rest of the UK, or visit the UCAS website.