Dear Parents / Carers,
I am writing to you as we receive the latest update from the Department for Education on the impact of School closures and specifically the cancellation of the exams for this summer. This letter takes extracts from our latest guidance and attempts to address some of the questions you may have regarding the impacts of this on your children, our students.
On 18 March 2020, the Secretary of State for Education announced that the summer 2020 GCSE exam series would be cancelled in order to help fight the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and that students due to sit the exams would be awarded a grade based on an assessment of the grade they would have been most likely to achieve had exams gone ahead.
On 23 March 2020, the Secretary of State explained the government’s intention that results would be issued to this year’s cohort based on a range of evidence and data, including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment. Going on to say that schools and colleges are best placed to judge the likely performance of their students at the end of the course.
Today we have been assured that this will be the case. We are being asked to submit what grade we professionally believe each student would have gained if they had sat the exam/completed the course in each of their subjects. Also, we are assured that Ofqual (who oversee all qualifications) and exam boards will do everything they can to make sure grades awarded this year are as fair as possible for students. This will include putting all our submitted grades for each student and subject through an external checking process to ensure that grades are comparable between schools and colleges.
Which qualifications are covered?
All GCSE qualifications that we provide Year 11 that are awarded by AQA, OCR, Pearson, WJEC Eduqas. This covers English, Maths, Science and all options unless they are non GCSE qualification. We are awaiting confirmation on the procedures for our BTEC qualifications, RSL and Cambridge Nationals. These are in the subjects of Engineering / Creative iMedia (IT) / Dance / Sport / Music and Drama. The same principles as GCSEs will apply, but we are waiting on details of how we are to submit the assessment grades.
How it will work?
How will centre assessment grades work?
We are being asked to use our professional experience to make a fair and objective judgement of the grade we believe a student would have achieved had they sat their exams this year. We will use the full range of available evidence when submitting the grade for students – including non-exam assessment; the results of any homework assignments or mock exams; and any other records of student performance over the course of study.
When and how will School assessment grades be submitted to exam boards?
Exam boards will provide detailed instructions to us on when and how to submit centre assessment grades after Easter. The deadline will not be earlier than 29 May 2020. In the meantime, we are being advised on the next steps we need to take to prepare for this submission.
Should schools be setting new work for students to complete to inform the grade they submit?
No. There is no requirement to set additional mock exams or homework tasks for the purposes of determining our assessment grade, and no student should be disadvantaged if they are unable to complete any work set after school was closed.
What does this mean for non-exam assessment (coursework)?
In some subjects students will have completed, or nearly completed, non-exam assessment. This will be helpful to us in deciding each student’s grade. We will not need to ask students to complete any unfinished non-exam assessment work for the purposes of grading.
Do schools and colleges need to submit the evidence they have used for grading?
No, we do not need to submit any supporting evidence, such as student work, to exam boards, but we do have to retain our detailed records of marks and mock exams in case exam boards have any queries about the data. The Head of Centre will need to confirm that our assessment grades are a true representation of student performance.
How will this work for tiered subjects?
In the case of tiered GCSE subjects, we only provide our assessment grades which reflect the tier of entry of the individual student (9 to 3 for higher tier; 5 to 1 for foundation tier). Tiers of entry had been submitted prior to the closure. This includes Science, Maths and Languages.
Standardisation and accuracy
Will our School assessment grades be accurate?
Our school based assessment has already had an important role in GCSEs. In an unprecedented situation such as this, we are considered best placed to judge the likely performance of our students had courses been completed as normal. There is evidence to show that teachers can rank order students with a high degree of accuracy. In the interests of fairness to students, judgements made by schools and colleges across the country should be consistent. Exam boards will therefore standardise the judgements once grades have been submitted.
How will centre assessment grades be standardised?
To make sure that grades are fair between schools and colleges, exam boards will put all centre assessment grades through a process of standardisation using a model being developed with Ofqual. We expect it will look at evidence such as the expected national outcomes for this year’s students; the prior attainment of students at each school and college; and the results of the school or college in recent years. If grading judgements in some schools and colleges appear to be more severe or generous than others, exam boards will adjust the grades of some or all of those students upwards or downwards accordingly. With this in mind we will make sure that we apply our own internal standardisation of the grades submitted by each teacher, ensuring we are not being over generous or overly severe and being fair.
Will students see the centre assessment grades their school or college submits?
No. We have been instructed not to share provisional grades, with students or parents and carers before final results have been issued. This is to protect the integrity of the teachers’ judgements, and to avoid teachers, Heads of Department or Heads of Centre feeling under pressure to submit a grade that is not supported by the evidence. Once our assessment grades have been submitted to exam boards, the process to produce the final grades will start. More information will be given to us, students, parents and carers at the time final results are issued.
Results and progression When will results be released?
The DfE and Ofqual are working hard to get results out as soon as is possible. Results won’t be delayed after the dates they were expected in August and ideally will be issued a little earlier, so students can have the certainty they need.
Will grades issued in 2020 carry the same weight as grades issued in previous or future years?
The grades awarded to students will have equal status to the grades awarded in other years and should be treated in this way by universities, colleges and employers. On the results slips and certificates, grades will be reported in the same way as in previous years.
Will students be able to progress to the next stage of education or employment with these grades?
Yes, this approach will enable students to move onto the next stage of their education or employment in the autumn as planned. The Department for Education has discussed the plan with UCAS, school and college leaders, who are supportive of the approach.
Can students appeal these grades?
We are all focused on making sure students are not disadvantaged by these unprecedented circumstances including to allow for an appeal where appropriate. The DfE and Ofqual are considering what arrangements might be put in place to allow an effective appeal and will consult on proposals shortly. Students who feel that their grades from the summer do not reflect their ability will have the opportunity to take their exams in the autumn series or in summer 2021. If they choose to do this, both grades will stand.
What about students who have an agreed reasonable adjustment or access arrangement for their exams, such as additional time or a reader?
We will judge the grade that these students would most likely have achieved if they had been able to sit their examinations with the intended reasonable adjustment or access arrangement in place.
Will students be able to sit all of their exams in the autumn?
The DfE and Ofqual are developing the details of the autumn exam series and will share more information as soon as possible.
Will there be a cost for students taking exams in the autumn?
Fees are payable by us for students enrolled at the school, how this will evolve in the autumn, once our students are elsewhere, we will wait on guidance.
I hope that this rather long letter does answer or at least partly answer your questions regarding the challenging situation we find ourselves in. We, like yourselves are adapting to a changing situation, but please be reassured that we are confident that we can effectively and accurately award assessment results to the students to ensure that they are able to progress onto the next stage of their journey.
I hope that you are all staying safe and well in these unprecedented times, thank you for your support as always.
Deputy Head teacher.