I felt it was important to write after the release of the OFQUAL consultation outcome. This has been widely reported across the media today and, as ever, they have put a particular spin on a selective reading of the guidance that has now been released.
What we now have are the general principles of how grades will be awarded, and I have attached to this letter a very helpful infographic from OFQUAL which does explain things very well:
For total clarity, I have copied some of the actual text published by OFQUAL and given a little explanation of what each means below:
Teachers can use evidence of a student’s performance from throughout the course to inform their judgement.
This means we can use classwork, previous tests and assessments, work from the period of remote learning, and anything that the students complete in the future to help inform judgements.
Teachers should determine the grades as late in the academic year as is practicable, and not confined to a defined window, to enable teaching to continue for as long as possible.
The actual deadline for submitting grades by the school is mid-June. However, this in practice means that Year 11 and Year 13 will be working and able to influence their grades up to the May half term, as teachers will need time to moderate.
Students should continue to work on their non-exam assessment (NEA), including for Project qualifications. NEA will be marked by teachers and will contribute to the overall grade, whether or not it has been completed, but we will not require exam boards to moderate it.
Subject staff will now be deciding what needs to be completed and when this will need to be done by. As these make up large parts of some courses, these will be key pieces of evidence for grades.
In GCSE, AS and A level Art and Design, the student’s grade must be based on the portfolio only, whether or not it has been completed.
Art and Photography students will be told what they need to concentrate on, and deadlines, by their staff over the next few weeks, once exam board guidance is published.
In GCSE English Language, GCSE Modern Foreign Languages and A Level Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Geology), centres should determine and submit a separate grade or result for the endorsement. This result or grade should be based on work that has been completed towards the endorsement.
Students will get the normal range of endorsements for speaking and practical skills in these subjects.
Exam boards will provide a package of support materials to include questions, mark schemes, data about how students typically performed in individual questions and exemplar materials, as well as advice for teachers about content coverage, topic selection, marking and making grading judgements. This will be based on past questions and will include a proportion of previously unpublished questions for every subject.
Use of these exam board support materials is not compulsory; they will be part of the range of evidence teachers could use to determine the grade.
We will most likely use these in school in some way, as these will be a good basis for anchoring our judgements. We will not know what the materials look like until the end of March, which is when the materials will be published for each subject by the exam boards. The use of these materials will not start, therefore, until after Easter and we will discuss with students how we use them once we have some greater detail.
Exam boards will work together as far as possible to ensure that requirements for internal quality assurance (QA) and arrangements for external QA are consistent.
Centres’ internal QA arrangements will include consideration of the centre’s profile of results in previous years as a guide to help them to check that their judgements are not unduly harsh or lenient.
There will be lots of moderation of the evidence base we compile, and students will need to have comparable standards of work at each grade and a comparable body of evidence.
Exam boards will put in place arrangements for external QA to check each centre’s internal QA process and, in a sample of centres, to review the evidence for one or more subjects. Sampling should be both random, and risk-based.
The moderation and evidence will be robust as it is open to external scrutiny. The school cannot just recommend a grade without an appropriate evidence base.
Results days will be on Tuesday, 10 August for AS and A Level, and Thursday, 12 August for GCSE results.
These are earlier to allow for appeals but, with the level of moderation in the system, unless there is a clerical error, it is unlikely there will be evidence to change grades.
It is certainly not going to be, as some reporting has sadly stated, a free for all in assigning grades, as there will have to be a body of evidence for each student at the standard of the work they are graded at. These judgements will be both internally and externally moderated meaning that students can have confidence that it will be neither harder, or indeed easier, to achieve the grades they deserve than any other year.
There is no doubt that, for each and every Year 11 and Year 13 student, the priority now is to make sure that at every opportunity they are trying to produce work to the very highest of standards, all the way up to the May half-term. There are also topics that need completing in order for students to have the knowledge they need to progress to their next stage of education. They all have their own ambitions, and we will be here to support them, so as many as possible reach the required standards for the grades they are aiming for.