Information on the awarding of GCSE grades 2021
Dear Parents / Carers,
It has been a great first week back and we are so delighted to welcome our students, particularly Year 11, back to school. Whilst both teachers and students alike have been working incredibly hard to adapt to online learning nothing can replace having faces in front of you in the classroom, it has been a very welcome return to a more normal teaching and learning experience.
On 15 January 2021 Ofqual and the Department for Education (DfE) published a joint consultation seeking views on how grades should instead be awarded. The consultation closed on 29 January 2021 and decisions were published on 25 February 2021. This interim guidance (ahead of any further updates from Ofqual/DfE or exam boards) illustrates how grades for GCSEs, non GCSE certificated courses should be awarded for the summer of 2021. We have been working hard to respond to the guidance to ensure every one of our students gain the grades they deserve this year. We have been working with colleagues across the city and further afield and, whilst each school is taking a slightly different approach, each is committed to developing a fair and rigorous process for establishing grades, and we are learning from each other.
In short, with the examination element of all courses cancelled, we are required to provide ‘Teacher Assessed Grades’ for each subject entry.
All parties agree that your son/daughter’s subject teachers know them the best and are therefore best placed to collate their ‘Assessed Grade’ and ensure they are not disadvantaged by the government arrangements for alternatives to exams. As such, they will be working hard over the coming months to ensure students have the support they need to access the grades they deserve. Teachers will continue to be open and honest with students and provide them with excellent teaching and learning, and opportunities to access the support and guidance they need. Teachers will make a holistic judgment of each student’s performance, based on a wide range of evidence relating to the subject content that has been delivered to the students.
The requirement is that schools have a clear quality assurance process for arriving at grades which will be audited by the exam boards. As a school, we need to demonstrate that the grades are accurate and objective. Our process has been designed to achieve that goal, and detailed planning is underway in each subject.
In the first instance, the grades will be based on mini in-class assessments which we will do between now and May half term. We have chosen not to go down the route of exams or assessment weeks, but to integrate these assessments into the normal teaching timetable. This allows us to continue teaching students, with our focus targeted on the assessments to come. The expectation is that most subjects will do 3 mini assessments. Some subjects will be using ongoing or completed non-examined assessment portfolio evidence, such as in Art or Music, alongside BTEC and other coursework based subjects.
The mini – assessments will take place in normal lesson time. They will be short enough to be completed in the lesson, including students who have 25% extra time. Arrangements will be made for students with other access arrangements e.g. readers, scribes or word processors and students will be informed once arrangements are in place. However, every student will be given the support they are entitled to.
Each subject will provide students with an overview of what is happening week by week from now until the end of May when all our assessments need to be completed. This will allow students to plan their revision, and prepare in each subject area for the key content of each assessment. Lessons leading up to each mini-assessment will be targeting the key themes, with relevant homework tasks. We will be careful to ensure that the mini – assessments are spread out to avoid students having multiple assessments on any given day. Students will need to take all assessments; if they miss one, we will arrange for them to catch up.
Below is an overview of the whole process:
The marking of assessments will be moderated to ensure marking is fair; with all papers checked for accuracy. A thorough quality assurance system is in place for this.
For practical and vocational subjects, the overall marks will be based on portfolios of evidence and non-examined assessments completed up until the 28th May when we finish for half term.
These assessments alongside other evidence we have will be collated and will allow us to submit a final teacher assessed grade to the exam boards. Given the timings required by the exam boards, we will need to complete all assessments by May half term. We have therefore decided that Year 11 will not need to attend school after May half term.
I hope that this gives you an overview of the process we will be putting in place and that you can see that we that we are doing everything necessary to ensure students get the grades they deserve.