Using teacher assessment for GCSE grades will show that an alternative universe is possible

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The use of teacher assessments to decide on pupils’ GCSE and A level grades presents us with the chance to show that “an alternative universe is possible”.

All GCSE, AS and A level examinations have been cancelled in light of the coronavirus emergency and the Department for Education (DfE) has outlined its plans for a system of moderated teacher-assessment in England to decide pupils’ final marks.

More details about how the system will work is expected imminently from exams watchdog Ofqual and the exam boards as well as from the exams regulators in Wales and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, a similar system of teacher-led grade assessment is being put in place, although the Scottish Qualifications Authority has yet to confirm the full details.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said this week that the profession now has a unique opportunity to show that the current system of examinations at 16 is “inappropriate”.

In guidance issued to its members, ASCL reminds schools that the performance tables have been suspended for this year and urges teachers to avoid giving their students the benefit of the doubt when assigning grades.

It states: “This is an opportunity for the profession as a whole to show that it can, and will, produce reasonable grades through the process of teacher assessment.

“For those who believe that the current system of examinations at 16 is inappropriate there is a chance here to show that an alternative universe is possible.”

ASCL warns that any inflated grades given this year would also disadvantage those students currently in years 10 and 12. Furthermore, Ofqual is expected to take steps to ensure that grade distributions “resemble previous years”.

On a practical note, ASCL advises teachers and leaders that they should not be seeking any further work from students at this point to support teacher-assessed grades.

The guidance adds: “Not all students will be able to respond; some will be ill while others will be living under more difficult circumstances at home. We believe the priorities for pupils in year 11 and 13 are to ensure that they complete the curriculum in the subjects which they wish to pursue in the following year, not to add collateral to the assessment process.”

The DfE has said that students will have an option to sit an exam early in the next academic year if they wish to and that an appeals system will be put in place.

The government guidance on the cancellation of exams (DfE, 2020) states: “Ofqual will develop a fair and robust process that takes into account a broad range of evidence, including teacher assessment and prior attainment. Ofqual will make every effort to ensure that the process agreed does not disadvantage any particular group of students.

“Pupils who do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance will have the opportunity to sit an exam, as soon as is reasonably possible after schools and colleges open again.

“We know that simply using predicted grades would not be fair to all students. The calculated grade will take into account teachers’ assessment of the likely grade as well as other factors such as prior attainment, so students’ final grades will not necessarily reflect their predicted grades.”

A statement from Ofqual said that it will shortly publish more details, including “the steps we would like teachers to follow and more detailed guidance on how to consider the full range of evidence they will have available when submitting their assessment grades”.

It adds: “We will outline by Easter the process we will follow to make sure grades are fair across schools and colleges, as well as our proposals for appeals. We will also say more as soon as possible about the arrangements for additional exams in the new academic year.”

ASCL will be producing similar guidance on the arrangements in Wales and Northern Ireland in due course.


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