Co-authored by Jennifer Wright, Solicitor, Public Law & Human Rights

Following the cancellation of this year’s summer exams, the Department for Education have launched a consultation with Ofqual on how this year’s GCSEs, AS and A levels should be awarded. As part of the consultation, they want to hear from students, parents employers and those working in education (including teachers, trainers, exams officers, headteachers, college leaders and exam boards), to help shape the assessment process. Ofqual have also suggested employers, and those who work in higher education, may wish to share their views given that they need to understand and respect the grades to be awarded.

In their press release on 15 January 2021 the Secretary of State confirmed their preference for students taking GCSEs, AS and A levels in summer 2021 to be given grades based on teacher assessments, “with teachers supported in making decisions with guidance and training from exam boards. The consultation is therefore focused on considering factors such as the range of evidence teachers should use to award a grade, in order to support consistency and fairness across schools and colleges.

The consultation asks questions such as whether externally set coursework, other forms of assessment and papers provided by exam boards should be mandatory or optional for schools and colleges. If they are to be used, it is proposed that they would form only one part of a teacher’s wider assessment of a student.

The consultation stresses that students should be assessed on what they have learnt, rather than against content they have not had a chance to study. This has led to proposals to give teachers flexibility to choose the papers they use for assessment based on the areas of the curriculum their students have covered.

Teachers’ assessments would be subject to quality assurance checks by exam boards, and Ofqual is also clear that “all students must have a route to appeal their grade.” The consultation will seek views on results being issued to students earlier than usual, to allow enough time for appeals to be processed ahead of the start of the new term.

A range of options for private candidates to be assessed and make sure they receive a grade are also part of the ongoing considerations. Candidates who are studying independently, or being home educated, are explicitly invited to take part in the consultation.

Similar alternative arrangements are proposed for students taking vocational and technical qualifications, such as BTECs. For qualifications where a practical demonstration of skills is needed to show occupational competency, it is suggested that assessments would continue to be able to take place, so long as public health guidance allows.

Vocational qualifications with written exams scheduled in February and March, will not go ahead as planned. Alternative arrangements will be put in place for these instead.

You can access the consultation to take part by going to this linkand clicking ‘respond online’. 

For more information, visit the DfE page here.  

And the Ofqual blog here.

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