Update for independent schools on guidance for teacher assessed grades in summer 2021

2nd August 2021

We provided an update on the recent guidance for Teacher Assessed Grades produced by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) covering:

This assisted schools with reaching and submitting teacher assessed grades (TAGs). Schools are now focusing their attention on support for students when results are made available to them, including in relation to appeals.

Last month, Ofqual provided further statutory guidance on TAGs, specifically in relation to appeals. Here we summarise this guidance for independent schools and consider the action schools can take to prepare for subject access requests (SARs) in respect of TAGs.



Students will have the right to appeal the grade they are given where they consider one or more (if appropriate) of the following grounds of appeal apply:

  • the centre failed to follow its procedure properly
  • the awarding organisation made an administrative error
  • the grade awarded was an unreasonable exercise of academic judgement.

The student will have to present the grounds of appeal and explain what they think went wrong and how this has impacted the TAG they have received. The student’s explanation does not need to be complex and the student is not expected to apply any particular skill when making the request. The most effective grounds of appeal will likely be those which simply and clearly explain what the student thinks went wrong and how they think this impacted the determination of the TAG.

The first stage of an appeal will be a centre review, where the student can ask for their results to be checked for an administrative or procedural error. If they remain unsatisfied, at stage two the centre can (and must) submit an appeal to the awarding organisation on behalf of the student when requested.

Following a consultation on the appeals process, Ofqual updated its General Qualifications Alternative Awarding Framework, which places a number of obligations on awarding organisations.

Whilst there are strict timescales to adhere to in respect of student appeals, any awarding organisation must do what it can to prevent a student from being disadvantaged because a centre has not conducted a review of the student’s TAG correctly, or has failed to submit a student’s request for appeal to the awarding organisation in a timely manner.

Independent schools should ensure that any request by a student in respect of their TAG is dealt with promptly and effectively, to avoid an awarding organisation needing to apply its discretion in this way.

In addition, awarding organisations are required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that, before the issue of results, students are aware of the arrangements in place to request a review of their result. As there are a few weeks before results are released, independent schools should now look to plan ahead and ensure they have sufficient resources to deal with appeals in the summer and make appeals information available to students.


Ensuring transparency

Independent schools may receive requests for information in respect of TAGs. Whilst they are not obliged to provide information as a result of a freedom of information request, unlike maintained schools and academies, independent schools do however have an obligation to respond to a SAR under data protection laws. A subject access request can be made by individual students or parents on their behalf (with their child’s authority).

There is specific guidance published by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for teachers and schools in respect of students’ access to information about their assessment results. If schools receive a SAR, or a freedom of information request, we advise schools to obtain legal advice in respect of their obligations and how to approach such requests.

Schools may also wish to consider proactively providing all students with information submitted to the exam boards once results are published (and subject to data protection and any other relevant legal considerations). The ICO guidance states that schools taking this approach should give advance notice of this and provide additional information and guidance so that students understand the context in which their final calculated result was decided.


Practical steps

Schools should make sure key members of staff, including those supporting students when results are published, have read the Ofqual appeal guidance. Additionally, schools should plan ahead and ensure they have sufficient resources to deal with appeals in the summer.

In regard to SARs, whilst schools cannot pre-empt how many requests will be received (if any), or the specific details of requests, schools should provide as much information as possible to students to try to reduce the number of requests received. Schools may take the following steps to do this:

  • putting in place clear procedures to identify and deal with such requests
  • pro-actively publishing details about the school’s processes for determining grades
  • publishing as much anonymised performance data as possible following the assessments.

Whilst these steps can help to enhance transparency with students, schools must be mindful of their legal obligations to ensure that no personal data is published inadvertently which could be in breach of the data protection principles.

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