Pupils will be able to find out if they are top of their class, after the information commissioner ruled that they have a right to know their place in the rank order drawn up by teachers.
Students have a legal right to request certain information that their school submitted to exam boards earlier this year, under General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Teenagers are entitled to request certain information that schools hold including written comments about their predicted grade, their place in the class rank order and their scores in school tests.
Headteachers have complained that this puts them in a “very difficult position”, particularly they thought the rank order would be confidential.
Next Thursday, 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.
Under the model, the "rank order" – where pupils in each class are ranked from best to worst – will play an important role in determining students’ grades. Those near the top of the rank order could see their results bumped up whereas those near the bottom could be moved down.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said there has been a “great deal of confusion” over whether or not students are entitled to see the predicted grades that teachers submitted to exam boards, known as Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs).
“Schools and colleges have been told, rightly, that they must not reveal these ahead of results days. Our understanding, at least initially, was that these would remain private, and that students would only be told their final calculated grade,” guidance from ASCL says.
“However, it has since become clear that CAGs and pupil rankings are not exempt from subject access requests made under the Data Protection Act 2018. It now appears that CAGs and rank orders are personal data, which students have a right to know.
“This leaves schools in a very difficult position, having been under the impression that CAGs would remain confidential.”
ASCL advised headteachers not to reveal students’ rank order position unless they “explicitly” ask for it. Even then, schools should treat it as a formal “subject access request”, meaning they have one month to respond.
Under data regulations, students do not have the right to request information that they have recorded themselves, meaning they would not be able to get copies of their mock exams scripts, assignments or tests.
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".