Assessment Process (Summer 2021)

Dear Parent/Carer,

Please find information regarding this year’s summer grading, exam malpractice and the appeal process.


How has my child been graded this year?

Grades for GCSEs, A-levels, and most other qualifications including applied generals will be based on a process involving teacher assessment against national standards, internal quality assurance, and external quality assurance by the exam boards.

At The Link School, we have used a range of evidence to reach a holistic judgement for each student. This includes formal assessments sat under exam conditions, a selection of class and homework (including work completed during remote learning) and non-exam assessment (coursework) and as well as practical performance in some subjects.

You can read our Centre Policy, which has been approved by the exam boards on our website. This details the approach we have taken as a school.


Why have there been so many assessments when exams were cancelled?

National exams were cancelled in January, and all schools and colleges had flexibility about how to arrive at a fair and robust grading for each student.

Throughout the early summer term, we have been using exam-style assessments, drawing on the assessment materials provided by exam boards, as we think this will produce the most reliable, and therefore fairest, evidence.

What evidence has been used in each subject?

Our Centre Policy details the high-level approach we are taking as a school. Your child’s subject teacher will have already let students know what evidence is being used for each specific subject.

If there are any reasons why you think certain evidence should not be used (e.g. your child missed out on learning content for that assessment), your child must let the school know as soon as possible, by the 17th June. This should be done by contacting Rob Giles (Head of School), so that we can apply the mitigating circumstances to any specific subjects your child deems where evidence has been missed.

Please note, that teachers and leaders will use their professional judgements about how to respond to mitigating circumstances; and this may vary between subjects depending on the impact it had on the assessment. Teachers will record how any mitigating circumstances were responded to.


My child usually has access arrangements (e.g. extra time) in exams. Have they this year?

If a student is eligible for any sort of access arrangements as part of their SEND provision, then they have been given it in the assessments we have carried out.

If a student who is eligible for access arrangements did not have them for a particular assessment that is being used to inform their grade, then they raise this with the school or college by contacting Clare Curry (SENDCo). A record of how this is responded to will be made. This could include using an alternative piece of evidence or adjusting the marks for that assessment.


Can we know the grade submitted?

No, we are legally obliged not to let students or parents/carers know their submitted grade before results day.

In some subjects, students may receive grades or marks for certain assessments that may count towards their grades; but this is at the subject lead’s discretion. Students do not have an automatic right to know their grades or marks in a subject’s assessment, just because they’ve been told marks in another assessment.


The assessments you’re doing are different from another school or college. How is this fair?

Schools and colleges have been given a lot of flexibility in how they decide a holistic teacher assessed grade this summer. This means that it’s likely the assessments will look different in different schools and colleges, even ones in the same area.

Because students should only be assessed on what they have been taught, to account for variations in lost learning due to the pandemic, the range of evidence will differ between schools and colleges, and even between students within The Link School.


Our approach has been approved by the exam boards, but many different approaches have also been approved. This does not mean one approach is better than the other.

I don’t think my child’s teacher will judge them fairly.

All of staff have undergone objectivity and bias training. This is detailed in our Centre Policy, which has been approved by the exam boards. You can see the training that was provided here.

All of the grades will be signed off by two members of staff, including the head of department. All grades will be signed off by the head of centre.

We will also have to send a sample of work into the exam boards, ensuring that grades are fair and accurate.

If you have a concern about bias please contact Rob Giles (Head of School) urgently.


My child needs a particular grade for university / college; what can I do to make sure they get it?

It is important that neither students nor the parents or carers put undue pressure on The Link School staff to submit a certain grade before 18 June. If a member of staff feels that pressure is being applied, we will first raise this with you directly.

If the pressure continues, we have been instructed to report this (whether from parents or students) to the exam boards as potential malpractice.

If you want to raise genuine mitigating circumstances with us, then please do through the channels outlined above.


What is exam malpractice?

Exam malpractice this year includes students fabricating evidence (e.g. claiming plagiarised work is their own), they or their parents placing undue pressure on teachers to submit a certain grade, as well as teachers fabricating evidence.

If malpractice is proven, the exam boards may decide to withhold the qualification altogether.

Our approach to authenticating evidence is set out in our Centre Policy.

How can I appeal?

If your child is unhappy with their grade this summer, they will have the opportunity to resit all GCSEs and A-levels in the autumn. Students should speak to Beryl Wiseman (Exams Officer) about entering the autumn series.

There is also the option to appeal a grade on the following grounds:

  • Administrative error – you think the school or college has submitted the wrong grade for you
  • Procedural error- you think the school or college did not follow our process correctly
  • Error of academic judgement – you do not think the grade submitted reflects a reasonable judgement on either the evidence that was used, or the grade arrived at.

All appeals will first be processed as a centre review. Following the outcome of centre review, students can choose to take forward an appeal to the exam board(s), which we will do on their behalf. Details of how to request a centre review will be available before results day.

Please note that at any stage of the appeals process a student’s grade(s) could go up or down. If the appeal process decides that the submitted grade was too high, students will not be able to keep the higher grade. We will require students to sign a declaration saying that understand this before they submit an appeal.


My child has work at a higher grade than the work used as evidence. Can they appeal?

Students have already been told what evidence is being used. If they want to raise any mitigating circumstances about this, they should do so as above. Just having a higher-graded essay is not grounds for mitigating circumstances – although this request will be recorded.

When it comes to appeals, exam boards will be considering whether any teacher acting reasonably could have used the same evidence and reached the same judgement. This is different to whether other alternatives would have been equally as valid.

If students have a genuine concern about the evidence being used, they should raise this with the school or college before 18 June, so that teachers can consider it.

Yours sincerely,

Donna Walker

Head Teacher

To download or print this letter – Click Here 


Link School Springwell Dene
Swindon Road, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear  SR3 4EE

Tel: 0191 561 5777

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Friday: 8am – 4pm

Link School Pallion
Waverley Terrace, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear SR4 6TA

Tel: 0191 561 4777



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