Appeals

As a result of Ofqual’s decision on 17 August, students received centre assessment grades if they were higher than their calculated grades. We understand you’ll have questions about what this means for the appeals process.

Ofqual has produced a simplified guide to appeals, and we’ve more information below.

Who can appeal

Only schools can submit appeals and these must be authorised by the Head of Centre. Students (including private students) can't appeal directly to exam boards.

If an appeal is submitted, students should also enter for exams

We recommend that, in cases where the school or college is submitting an appeal on a student’s behalf, the student also enters for the equivalent exam if it's available in the autumn series.

This is because of the tight timelines for the autumn series entry and the turnaround time required for an appeal. This way if a student is not happy with the outcome of the appeal, they can then sit the exam to try and improve their grade. If an appeal is upheld, the school will be able to withdraw the entry.

If a school won’t appeal at the student’s request

Schools and colleges must provide an internal appeals procedure which students can use if there’s disagreement about whether or not the school or college should submit an appeal on the student’s behalf.

What you can appeal against

Appeals will be allowed where a school believes an exam board did not apply its procedures properly and fairly, or where the data used by the exam board to produce results contained an error.

Schools can submit an appeal for either an individual student, a group of students, or a full cohort.

Appeal grounds

You can submit an appeal on the grounds of a data error in the following circumstances:

1.The Head of Centre has evidence that the school or college made a mistake when submitting the centre assessment grade(s) to us.

You can submit an appeal on this ground if:

  • there was an administrative error when submitting a student’s CAG
  • there has been a failure to take into account important information about a student’s likely performance that should have been and was taken into account when determining other students’ CAGs
  • your school’s approach to determining a student’s CAG can be shown to be inappropriate in accordance with Ofqual’s published guidance.

Appeals can’t be submitted solely because a student disagrees with their school’s or college’s professional judgement. Students will have the opportunity to take their AS and A-level exams in October, and GCSEs in November, if they’d like to try to improve their grades.

You’ll need to include evidence with your appeal application to explain how the error was made. Possible sources of evidence may include:

  • signed statements from the Head of Centre and/or other relevant staff such as the subject teacher and Head of Department, explaining why the error was not identified during the original process
  • email exchanges or similar that demonstrate that the intention was to submit a different grade
  • screen-shots of date-stamped data or similar that supports the explanation for the error
  • meeting notes from the time students’ CAGs were decided that support the explanation of the error (for example, from a meeting where a particular CAG-setting process at the school was agreed)
  • tracking or other progress/attainment data for the student(s)
  • written documents that show when the issue came to light, or which otherwise support the explanation of the error.

In cases where there’s been a centre error, we’ll take into account the nature of the error and how it came about when deciding whether follow-up action against the school is needed.

2.The Head of Centre has evidence that we introduced an error into the centre assessment grade data submitted to us or when we communicated a grade.

You can submit an appeal on this ground if you believe we’ve made an administrative error; for example, if you think we’ve not used the CAGs you’ve provided, or if you believe we’ve made an error when issuing your students’ results.

3.The Head of Centre believes we used the wrong data when statistically standardising some students’ results.

You can submit an appeal on this ground if you believe we’ve used the wrong data when standardising a student’s calculated grade; for example, if you think we’ve used the wrong historical results data for your centre, or the wrong prior attainment data for your student(s).

This ground only applies to students who have received calculated grades. You can’t appeal CAGs on this ground.

What you can’t appeal against

Appeals can’t be submitted because a student disagrees with their school’s or college’s professional judgement, though students can ask their school to check whether a mistake was made when the school submitted information to us.

Students will have the opportunity to take their AS and A-level exams in October, and GCSEs in November, if they’d like to try to improve their grades. They could also resit in summer 2021.

Ofqual has produced a student guide to appeals, malpractice and maladministration complaints for students who have concerns about their results.

Schools can’t appeal on the grounds that another school took a different approach to determining CAGs, or on the basis that different teachers could have come to a different judgement.

Appeals can’t be submitted because a school took their historical results profile into account when deciding students’ CAGs, or because centre assessment grades weren’t standardised by exam boards.

How to appeal

There are two stages to the appeals process this summer: initial review; and independent review. You’ll need to complete the initial review stage before being able to proceed to the independent review stage. Learn more about the appeals process in this visual guide.

The deadline for requesting an initial review is 17 September.

If you’re unhappy once you’ve completed both stages, you can raise your concerns with Ofqual via their Exam Procedure Review Service.

Stage 1: initial review

During the initial review stage, we’ll check the correct data has been used and that the correct procedure has been followed, depending on your grounds for appeal.

How to submit an initial review

To submit an initial review you’ll need to:

  1. download the ‘Appeal Links’ document from the e-Docs section of e-AQA. The document contains a list of all the subjects you’ve got results in, with a link next to each one. If you’re a Tech-level centre, please complete the initial review form found on Gateway.
  2. click on the link next to the subject you want to appeal in, which will take you to the appeals webform
  3. complete the webform, selecting the relevant appeal ground. Explain why you’re appealing as clearly as possible, providing evidence to support your appeal.

If you’re submitting the initial review request on the grounds of centre error, and we accept your application, we may then send you:

  • a pre-populated spreadsheet containing your cohort’s centre assessment grades (CAGs) and rank orders (ROs)
  • a new Head of Centre declaration, securely by ShareFile.

You’ll then need to return your corrected CAGs, ROs and a new Head of Centre declaration to us via ShareFile.

Timelines for initial review

We aim to complete your initial review within 42 calendar days – although we’ll do our best to work faster and will be prioritising appeals from A-level candidates.

We’ll be in touch once we’ve completed our initial review.

Stage 2: independent review

If you’re unhappy with the outcome of your initial review, you’ll be able to progress to the next stage of the appeals process, which is an independent review.

An independent decision-maker, who is not directly employed by AQA, will review your case.

Your request for an independent review must be submitted within 14 calendar days of the initial review outcome being communicated.

How to request an independent review

To request an independent review, follow the guidance provided on your initial review outcome letter, which you’ll receive once your initial review is complete.

Where to send your independent review request

Please email your request to appeals@aqa.org.uk

What information you need to provide

Please ensure that you include the following information in your email:

  • centre name and number
  • title and level of the specification being appealed
  • student details (names and candidate numbers of appealed candidates)
  • the name, position and email address of the named contact at the centre
  • the name of the Head of Centre and confirmation that they support the appeal
  • a clear explanation of your continuing grounds of appeal. Your grounds for appeal must be consistent with the grounds presented during the initial review. New grounds for appeal cannot be introduced at this point and would need to be submitted as a new initial review request
  • all evidence supporting the case.

Timelines for independent review

We aim to complete your independent review within 42 calendar days.

We’ll be in touch with you once the independent review is complete.

Appealing on multiple grounds in the same subject

If you have multiple grounds for appeal in the same subject, you’ll need to submit a separate appeal for each ground. Please submit these all at the same time so we can look at these holistically across the subject cohort.

If you don’t submit your subject appeals at the same time, this may delay your outcomes. We can’t process a second request before the first one is complete, because we need to make sure we’re using the most up-to-date and accurate data.

Prior attainment information

Where we’ve awarded calculated grades we used prior attainment data as part of the standardisation process set out by Ofqual.  At A-level, the data we used was based on students’ GCSE grades, and at GCSE this was based on students’ KS2 scores.

Incorrect prior attainment data

If you feel that we’ve used the wrong prior attainment data for students who received calculated grades, you can ask us to confirm which of your students were matched to prior attainment data during the standardisation process.

If you request this, we'll provide you with a list of the students who were matched, to help you confirm that the correct data was used in the format specified by Ofqual. We can’t send you the actual prior attainment data (the GCSE/KS2 scores) because of GDPR restrictions.

Download the prior attainment request form

If you'd like to request this information, download and complete the form which can be found on e-AQA (Secure Key Materials > Admin > Results Forms > Prior Attainment Data Request Form), or on Gateway for Tech-level centres.

Please email your request to priorattainmentinfo@aqa.org.uk

There is an additional fee for this service, which is detailed below. We’ll aim to complete your request within 10 working days. We’ll email the outcome to your main e-AQA administrator.

Student consent

Ofqual has confirmed that grade protection will apply for both general qualifications and AQA’s non-general qualifications this year. This means students’ results won’t go down because of an appeal.

Schools don’t need to obtain student consent for appeals – although we’d still recommend that schools tell their students if they’re including them in an appeal, so that students are aware their grades may go up.

Appeal fees

Appeals will be free if they’re successful - unless the appeal is due to centre error. For anything else, we’ll charge a small fee to cover some of our costs.

Our fees for unsuccessful appeals – or appeals due to centre error – are:

  • stage 1: initial review £35 (unless you’re appealing on the grounds of exceptional circumstances, in which case the fee is £150)
  • stage 2: independent review £150
  • prior attainment data request: £11.35, or a capped price of £22.70 if you’re requesting two or more, or even all subjects.

Fees are per appeal, so if you include multiple students in the same appeal the fee will remain the same.

Bias and discrimination

A student with concerns about bias, discrimination, or any other reason why a school didn’t fairly assign a centre assessment grade or ranking, should usually raise this with their school in the first instance - and follow the school’s normal complaints route.

If a student has evidence of serious malpractice and feels they can’t raise this with their school, it might be appropriate for them to go directly to an exam board.

If your school receives an allegation of bias or discrimination from a student, which they believe has impacted on the centre assessment grade or rank order your school submitted, we recommend taking the following steps to investigate these concerns thoroughly:

  • Check the documentation relating to the centre assessment grade process your centre followed and satisfy yourself that a robust process was followed.
  • Obtain statements from the teacher(s) involved, containing a rationale for the centre assessment grade and rank order which was given to the student.

If you do find evidence that shows bias or discrimination has impacted on the grades and rank orders your school submitted to us, please send your concerns to our Exams Integrity team at irregularities@aqa.org.uk. You don’t need to contact us if you don’t find any evidence of bias or discrimination, though we’d recommend keeping a copy of your findings.

Key dates and timelines

Here are some key dates and timelines for appeals:

  • the deadline for requesting an initial review is 17 September
  • appeals will be completed within 42 days
  • schools and colleges will have 14 days to proceed to a stage 2 appeal after receiving the outcome of stage 1.

Useful guidance

Before deciding whether or not to submit an appeal, we’d recommend reviewing the following: