School pupils are to be told not to hug each other on A-level results day even if they are feeling “emotional” after receiving their marks.
Students who come into school on Thursday to pick up their grades in person must remember to uphold social distancing guidelines, headteachers have said.
Next week, the majority of teenagers in England will receive A-level grades that have been calculated using a statistical model after the coronavirus crisis interrupted the exam season.
Headteachers are concerned that results day will involve large groups of students meeting at school, “many of whom are likely to be emotional and so will find social distancing even more challenging than usual”, according to the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).
But official guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) states that students should minimise contact with their peers as much as possible on results day.
Parents should be banned from accompanying their children on to the school’s site, and should be urged not to congregate at the entrance.
“Schools should continue to make clear to parents that, should they wish to accompany their child to collect their results, they must not gather at entrance gates or doors and neither should their child, or enter the site unless they have a pre-arranged appointment,” the DfE guidelines say.
Schools which decide to minimise contact by staggering the arrival of students on results day should bear in mind that pupils who are allocated later time slots could be at a disadvantage to their peers.
This is because students who have missed their offers and are entering the clearing process may want to phone up university admissions offices in an attempt to secure a place.
They might have a better chance at success if they are able to start earlier in the day, as would students whose grades are better than they expected and who want to "trade up" by finding a place at a more prestigious institution.
Most A-level and GCSE results will be decided by statistical modelling rather than teachers' predicted grades.
Concerns over the reliability of teachers' predictions – in particular their tendency to inflate pupils' grades – led to a decision by Ofqual, the exam regulator, not to rely wholly on them.
A recent analysis by Ofqual found that teachers bumped up predicted A-level marks by 12 per cent on average and GCSE marks by nine per cent.
The watchdog said it was "not surprising" that grades predicted by teachers were optimistic since teachers "naturally want to do their best for their students".
Ofqual said their researchers tested out 12 different statistical models and chose one which drew on a number of factors, including data on pupils' previous education attainment as well as previous results of students at the same school.
Under the model, the "rank order" which teachers drew up for this year's students will also play an important role in determining grades.
For new schools, which do not have historic data, as well as small schools or those in which low numbers of students are taking particular subjects, teachers' predictions will be the "primary source" of evidence for grades.
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has promised that "no child will be penalised" by this year's system and that all exam grades will be as fair and valid as those in previous years.
But headteachers have warned that this will be a year in which some pupils are "bound to feel victims in a process which is not of their own making".
Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said Ofqual have done the best it could but added: "This was always going to be a problematic year. There will be people who think the system isn't fair this year, but the reality is that Covid isn't fair."
Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “No system could be a perfect substitute for real exams, but I welcome the appeals guidance confirmed by Ofqual today, to make the process as fair as possible and make sure all students get a grade that allows them to progress.
“Grades this year will do for the vast majority of students what they do every year, opening the door to their next step whether that’s college, university, an apprenticeship or the world of work.
“And students will also have the opportunity to take exams this autumn if they are unhappy with their grades.”