20 April 2020

Dear Year 13 Students,


I am writing in the hope that you are in good health and to update you on the decisions made by Ofqual in terms of how A level grades will be awarded this summer. We have deliberately waited before writing to you, as additional information has become available since I last wrote to parents on 6th April 2020 and we wanted time to think carefully about the recommendations made by Ofqual before planning. A number of additional documents, including a consultation, were published on Wednesday 15th April 2020. Those documents provide much greater context and I now feel in a stronger position to explain how the process will work and to hopefully answer any questions that you may have about the national system that all schools will implement. I would encourage you to read the relevant documents very carefully, so that you fully understand the process that the school has been instructed to follow by Ofqual and the Department for Education. There is a link to the key documents below. The following offers an overview of how the system will work:

  • A level grades will be issued as normal on 13th August 2020.
  • Grades will based upon your expected performance in exams, if you had been allowed the opportunity to complete courses, revise thoroughly and complete additional exam practise in the summer term. To be clear, they will not be based upon a single assessment or performance in a particular mock examination.
  • In order to identify a grade, the school will consider a variety of different measures and available data.  These will include KS2 and KS4 attainment data, in addition to your work in class, assessments and examinations between September 2018 and 20th March 2020. Schools were formally closed by the Government on Friday 20th March and we have been directly instructed that any work completed after that date cannot be taken into consideration.
  • Ofqual and the Department for Education have given very strict guidance about how the process should be implemented. Any discussion of ranking or grading has been explicitly prohibited, with Ofqual stating that they will view any such conversations with students or parents as ‘malpractice.’ This will be very frustrating and, like you, we would rather you had the opportunity to demonstrate your ability in real end of course examinations. 
  • Durham Johnston has a track record of outstanding results and this will be a very important part of the statistical analysis of grades and ranking undertaken by Ofqual. Our departments also have a positive track record when it comes to adding value to student results, as proven by our annual progress scores.
  • We will take great care and will use all of the time available to make sure that we get the process right. Do not think of this as a simple judgement by which a teacher will quickly decide that someone would, for example, be likely to achieve a B grade in their exam; all of the available evidence will be reviewed and we will have a number of comparative checks to ensure fairness and accuracy. This will be done in an ethical and professional manner. 
  • The deadline for the school to provide the requested information is 29th May 2020. As noted above, we will have a rigorous system of checking in place. Results will not be forwarded to Ofqual until senior teachers at the school have checked thoroughly and until I have agreed to any decisions made as Head of Centre.
  • During your two years of A level study you will have developed positive relationships with your subject teachers and will, I hope, have felt well supported by the school. We are always honest and share information when it is right to do so; we don’t speculate and are transparent in all that we do. You will naturally want to discuss this process with your teachers and to discuss grades. However, I need to reiterate that they will not be allowed to discuss any part of the process with you. Ofqual have been very clear in outlining that to do so at any point prior to 13th August 2020 would be viewed as malpractice and the school would be sanctioned as a consequence. This instruction has been issued nationally and we will comply with it fully as directed.

Key documents from Ofqual can be found at this link.


Your time at Durham Johnston ended very abruptly and we are currently thinking about how we might be able to celebrate your time in 6th form and, for many of you, in your 7 years at the school. You are an excellent group of students who have been a pleasure to work with; Mrs Lennon, your tutors and your subject teachers also feel that an appropriate conclusion to your time at Durham Johnston has been taken from you by circumstance. We will continue to support you and will do everything that we can to support your transition to further study or employment. It is clear that you will go onto great success in life.


Take care and best wishes to your families.


Mr O’Sullivan