COVID series: How will GCSEs and A levels in June 2020 be awarded? - BESSA
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COVID series: How will GCSEs and A levels in June 2020 be awarded?

Editor: This article was updated on 16 May 2020 with updated and more recent information.

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) published guidance today as to how exam grades will be awarded following the cancellation of this year’s exams.

For this summer’s awards, schools and colleges are being asked to provide centre assessment grades for their students. These should be fair, objective and carefully considered judgements of the grades they believe their students would have been most likely to achieve if they had sat their exams, and should take into account the full range of available evidence.

Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, Ofqual, said:

“School or college based assessment already has an important role in many GCSEs, AS and A levels and in extraordinary circumstances such as these, schools and colleges are best placed to judge the likely performance of their students at the end of the course.

We have worked closely with the teaching profession to ensure that what we are asking is both appropriate and manageable, so that everyone can have confidence in the approach. I would like to take this opportunity to thank teachers and school leaders for making this process work for students during these very challenging times.

We have published a message to students to reassure them that we, and exam boards, will do everything we can to make sure that, as far as possible, grades are fair and that they are not disadvantaged in their progress to sixth form, college, university, apprenticeships, training or work because of these unprecedented conditions.

Exam boards will be contacting schools, colleges and other exam centres after Easter asking them to submit, by a deadline that will be no earlier than 29 May 2020, the following:

Firstly – a centre assessment grade for every student in each of their subjects: that is, the grade they would be most likely to have achieved if they had sat their exams and completed any non-exam assessment. Judgements should balance different sources of evidence such as: 1) classwork, 2) bookwork, 3) any participation in performances in subjects such as music, drama or PE, 4) any non-exam assessment – whether or not complete, 5) the results of any assignments or mock exams, 6) previous examination results – for example, for any re-sitting students or those with relevant AS qualifications, 7) any other records of student performance over the course of study;

Secondly – the rank order of students within each grade for each subject. For example, for all those students with a centre assessment grade of 5 in GCSE maths, a rank order where 1 is the most secure/highest attaining student, and so on. This information will be used in the statistical standardisation of centres’ judgements – allowing fine tuning of the standard applied across all schools and colleges.

Thirdly – a declaration from the Head of Centre making the submission.

To make sure that grades are as fair as possible across schools and colleges, exam boards will put all centre assessment grades through a process of standardisation using a model being developed with Ofqual. 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 (at cohort, not individual level), and the results of the school or college in recent years. It will not change the rank order of students within each centre; nor will it assume that the distribution of grades in each subject or centre should be the same. The process will also recognise the past performance of schools and colleges. However, 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.

Schools and colleges have been told that they must not share their centre assessment grades with students, parents or carers, under any circumstances, until after final results are issued. This is to protect the integrity of centres’ judgements, and to avoid anyone feeling under pressure to submit a grade that is not supported by the evidence. Since the final grades for some or all students in a centre could be different from those submitted, it also helps to manage students’ expectations. The results are not expected to be delayed past August and ideally will be released a little earlier than usual publication dates, so students can have the certainty they need.”

Students will also have the opportunity to sit exams at the earliest reasonable opportunity in the new academic year. Ofqual are working across the sector to plan for how and when these additional exams will take place. In a final word, Ofqual are working as quickly as possible to develop an approach and will provide further information as soon as they can.

Making grades as fair as they can be: advice for schools and colleges