Teachers, Pupils, Parents & Grades – What happens when they can’t agree?

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Teachers, Pupils, Parents & Grades – What happens when they can’t agree?

Teachers, Pupils, Parents & Grades – What happens when they can’t agree?

With a summer “exam season” unlike any we have seen before, schools and colleges are readying themselves to navigate the new exam results appeal process announced at the start of the year.

This year’s results days in England fall on:

  • 10 August for AS / A Level and relevant Level 3 VTQ results; and
  • 12 August for GCSE and relevant Level 2 VTQs.

Teacher Assessed Grades or “TAGs” have been used across the board this year in lieu of formal GCSE, AS and A level exams. Under TAGs teachers were instead asked to assess the standard that their students were performing at, rather than what the student most likely would have got had they sat the exam.

Main appeal procedure

The Department for Education has introduced an alternative appeals procedure which involves two steps:

1. An initial process review by the school or college concerned

If a student wishes to appeal, the centre concerned must first undertake an initial process review to check all processes were followed properly and consistently in relation to the student and that no administrative errors were made in relation to the result. If the centre finds any issue, they can submit a revised grade to the exam board.

2. A formal appeal to the exam board

If, after the initial review, a student still wants to appeal the centre must submit a formal appeal to the exam board for them. In this case the exam board will then check that the centre followed its processes and the exam board’s requirements. The exam board will also review the evidence used to form the TAG and then provide a view on whether the grade awarded was a reasonable exercise of academic judgement or not (this part does not occur at the initial review stage). If the exam board finds the grade is not reasonable, they will determine the alternative grade and inform the centre.

Grades during this process can go up, down or stay the same.

Complaints, SARs and FOIs

Outside of the main review and appeals process students and their parents may of course seek alternative actions against centres, such as:


Whilst many complaints may be resolved informally, centres should not prohibit complainants from wishing to raise a formal complaint. Should this occur the centre should then follow its complaints procedure.

Subject Access Requests (SARs)

Any request for information, whether verbal or in writing, relating to an individual is a SAR. A SAR must come from the student or with their permission unless the student has specific needs which affect their understanding. Staff at centres should be trained to identify SARs when made as there is a one month deadline under the GDPR to respond to SARs (only in complex cases can the time to respond be extended).

It is also important to remember that there are exemptions which may apply, including specific educational data ones.

Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs)

As an alternative, parents or students may make FOI requests. Unlike SARs, FOI requests must be made in writing. Following an FOI request centres are expected within 20 school days (or 60 working days – whichever is shorter) to state whether the information requested is held and to release the information requested (if they have it) unless there is a good reason to withhold some or all of it.

Get in touch

If you have any questions about any of the above or would like more detailed advice or assistance, our education specialists are on hand to help.

For more information, please contact Laura Thompson.