In lieu of this summer’s public exams, the Department for Education has set out plans to calculate grades. There are two stages to this process. Firstly, schools and colleges must make a judgement as to the grade the student will likely have achieved. These will be submitted to exam boards no earlier than 29 May, after which centres will have at least a fortnight to submit the data. Secondly, once collected, these ‘centre assessment grades’ will be nationally standardised using a model currently under development by Ofqual. Grades may change between these two steps, and final results will be published on 13 August (A level) and 20 August (GCSE).
- Centre assessment grades.
In order to produce a grade, schools and colleges will consider a wide range of evidence. This includes any and all classwork, homework, non-exam assessment, coursework (whether complete or not), mock exams and the results of any exams already taken (for those resitting or with relevant AS levels). There is some discrepancy regarding the cut-off point for this evidence. It would be unfair to require that any additional work be submitted after the date that schools closed on 20 March. In those cases where extra work has been completed, Heads of Centre are asked to exercise caution where such work reflects a change in performance.In addition to this calculated grade, a ranking of students within each grade must also be submitted. For example, all students with a C in A-Level Physics will be ranked according to the likelihood of receiving said grade, with 1 being the most likely, and so on. This statistical information will used in the standardisation process.
- StandardisationGiven the pressures of time, it won’t be feasible to moderate how centre assessment grades are calculated. Inevitably, centres will deviate from the average in both directions. The aim is for exam boards to correct these discrepancies when they standardise nationally.The model will draw on three sources of evidence; the historical outcomes for each centre, the prior attainment of students and the expected subject grade distribution based on the prior attainment of the national student pool. In line with their objective to maintain standards over time, Ofqual have decided to place more weight on statistical expectations.Their reasoning is three-fold. Firstly, research has shown that rank orders are likely to be more accurate than centre assessment grades. Moreover, a heavier reliance on statistical expectation will iron out incongruities across centres, removing variances in severity or generosity. Finally, they argue that the subsequent national grade distribution will more closely match the prior attainment of the 2020 cohort without unfairly disadvantaging those centres providing accurate or severe assessments.
- What about home-schooled candidates?For GCSE and A-Level Exams 2020, the principal question here is whether schools can reasonably compile enough evidence to make an objective judgement of the student’s likely grade. In those cases where the school has an existing relationship with the student, they are being asked to produce centre assessment grades along with the rest of their cohort. Unfortunately, there will be some students for whom there won’t be this body of evidence. Though Ofqual are consulting on the matter, currently it seems that these students will be unable to receive a grade this summer.
- Fairness, appeals and re-takes.
Given that all of the above is totally unprecedented, there will undoubtedly be questions as to fairness of this process. Most importantly, in order to preserve the objectivity of judgements made by teachers, there cannot be any discussion or disclosure of centre assessment grades or rank orders before final results are published in August.Ofqual are still consulting on how the appeals process will work for GCSE and A-Level Exams 2020. Their current proposition is that appeals be made by centres to exam boards on behalf of one or more students on the grounds that mistakes were made in producing the assessment grade or when standardising results. Crucially, the Secretary of State for Education has said that this appeals process should focus on the data used to produce a final grade, and not the judgement of teachers.In cases where students feel that their grades do not reflect their performance, there will be the opportunity to take their exams in the autumn. Importantly, both grades will stand. Therefore if the grade achieved in the autumn is lower than the one given in the summer, the previous grade will persist, and vice-versa.
- What students can do now.
- Some independent schools have said that they will consider work set during the Easter holidays and summer term when producing the assessment grade. In these cases, students ought to be ready to complete any such assessment.
- Those students unhappy with their grade in the summer will need to complete their course material. They will therefore need to retain that proficiency and familiarity for the autumn series.
- Especially for those students moving into A levels or onto university placements, now is a great time to prepare for this next phase. This might include pre-A level courses, or diving into more advanced undergraduate material.
This is an evolving situation and Ofqual’s current round of consultation will end on 29 April. They are updating their blog as more information becomes available.
No two students will be the same as they approach this extraordinary phase of their education. However, the benefits of online tutoring and remote learning remain. If you’d like to find out how one of our exceptional tutors can augment and assist your child’s learning, don’t hesitate to get in touch.