Information Update for the Awarding of GCSE, AS and A level Grades

Dear Year 11 and 13 students and parents,

As we approach the end of a term of transition back to face to face education for most following another period of school closure to most, I am writing with a further update on our preparations in line with the requirement for schools to generate grades for GCSE, A level and equivalent qualifications this summer. The assessment element of this information also applies to any AS level candidates.

There is a detailed guide for students and parents produced by JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications) available via the following link which was published on Friday 26th March.

I will detail our developing approach in line with the information in the JCQ guide in the information that follows.

What is happening, and when?

Entries have been made and cross-checked across all of the qualifications we offer.

We are currently compiling our Centre Policy for awarding grades which will be submitted to JCQ by 30th April.  This policy details a range of information on our approach to training of staff, using appropriate evidence, quality assurance, objectivity and addressing disruption, among other things.  The policy will be published on the ‘Awarding GCSE and A level grades – Summer 2021’ section of our website which will be live by the end of April.

Exam boards are securely releasing assessment materials to schools on Wednesday 31st March.  We will be using some of these assessment materials to assess what student know, understand and can do as part of the evidence we are gathering to support our awarding of grades.

Teachers continually assess learning to support their planning.  Teachers will continue to assess students during the 6 weeks of Term 5 both as part of normal teaching and learning as through classroom assessments.  Assessment will take place in classrooms as part of normal lessons (except for learners with access arrangements) and the majority of assessment will be carried out between Monday 26th April and Friday 28th May.  We want to give students every opportunity to show what they know, understand and can do.  We will share with students what the themes of their assessment will be, although we won’t be able to share the specific questions that will be asked.  Each assessment will be preceded with teacher-supported preparation.

We will undertake moderation and standardisation alongside the process of assessment during May and in the early part of June prior to submitting grades to the various awarding bodies.  Teachers will receive further training on ensuring unconscious bias doesn’t impact upon the grades awarded.

We may receive a virtual centre visit from OCR (OCR in the exam board allocated to us that will support us through the grade awarding process) during May or June to check the evidence we are using and the approaches we are taking.  The various awarding organisations will work with us to quality assure the grades that we will submit by 18th June.

The last day of Year 11 and Year 13 involving teaching and assessment for GCSE and A level (and equivalent) courses will be Friday 28th May.  We will be providing transition activities  during June for students in Year 11 moving on to post-16 study and/or training and the schedule for this will be released as soon as possible in May.  We will also plan to provide personal development opportunities for Year 13 students during June to support them in their further study, training and/or employment.

A level/Level 3 results will be released on Tuesday 10th August and GCSE/Level 2 results will be released on 12th August.  We will decide on how we will release results and whether this will be face to face or electronically during the summer term and communicate this as soon as we are able.

How will students be assessed?

Once we have reviewed the materials provided by awarding organisations from 31st March, we will finalise the range of evidence we will use.  We will discuss this range of evidence with students over the course of Term 5.  The evidence we use will be based only on what students have been taught.  They will not be disadvantaged due to the pandemic.

The range of evidence that we use will most likely include the following but may vary depending on the subject, for example, the evidence we will use in music and art will differ to that we will use in maths or geography.

Approved materials
Student work produced in response to assessment materials normally provided by the exam board including past papers, and the groups of questions being provided to support evidence gathering this summer, or similar materials such as practice or sample papers.
Where applicable, non-exam assessment (NEA) work (often referred to as coursework), even if this has not been fully completed.
Student work produced in centre-devised tasks that reflect the specification, that follow the same format as exam board materials and have been marked in a way that reflects exam board mark schemes. This could include substantial class or homework (including those that took place during remote learning), internal tests taken by pupils and mock exams taken over the course of study.
Records of a student’s capability and performance over the course of study in performance-based subjects such as music and PE.
Records of each student’s standard of work over the course of study.
For vocational qualifications (BTEC, CNAT….) – evidence from completed units including examined components that have been sat previously.

The range of evidence we use will be as broad as possible (meaning that there won’t be excessive emphasis placed on one particular piece of work or exam question or exam paper).  We will need to share the evidence we gather with the relevant awarding body in the case that they request it as part of the quality assurance process which is why we will be retaining all evidence of student work from 24th March that we will be using in conjunction with all other sources of information in order to reach an evidence-based decision to award a grade.

Teachers will not be able to discuss grades with students or parents and should not be asked to do so.  Teachers will be able to discuss marks for a particular task in the spirit of supporting improvement and learning.  We will not be releasing any further Learning Overviews this academic year and students should focus on giving the best account that they can of themselves over the coming weeks, demonstrating with focus and hard work what they know, understand and can do.

The process we will have gone through leading up to assigning a grade can be summarised as follows:

Step 1Consider what has been taught so that students aren’t assessed on something that hasn’t been taught
Step 2 Collect the evidence from as broad a range of sources and based on as much of the qualification specification as fair and possible
Step 3 Evaluate the quality of the evidence so that the grade assigned at the end of the process is objective and fair
Step 4Establish whether the proposed range of evidence is appropriate for all students and make adjustments in the cases it isn’t
Step 5Assign a grade using exam board grade descriptors

The grade that we assign for each subject will be grounded in the standard a student is performing at based on a wide range of evidence.

When will students be assessed?

We are building a schedule of classroom assessment for the main period of assessment that will take place between 26th April and 28th May.  The reasons we are doing this are:

  • to give all students every opportunity to show what they know, remember and can do so that the grade awarded is fair and the process consistently applied
  • to ensure that students are not overloaded by moving from one assessment to the next each day of the classroom assessment period
  • If a student qualifies for reasonable adjustments and/or access arrangements, we will ensure that they have these arrangements in place.

The benefit of this approach is that students will have the opportunity during the space between assessments to prepare for them with the guidance of a teacher, rather than facing lengthy papers covering a wide range of content in a large exam venue.

If students have any information about their personal circumstances that they wish to be considered or indeed questions about how their personal circumstances will be taken into account, the period following the Easter break is the best time to speak to us and we will provide information on how they can do that nearer the time.

We will aim to release an outline schedule for classroom assessment tasks prior to the Easter break although some details are still to be confirmed following time to explore the resources provided by awarding bodies which will be made available to us on the 31st March.

What happens after students receive their grades?

The dates for the release of results featured earlier in this information.  The arrangements for the day will be confirmed nearer the time.  There will be an appeals process which will run through August and into September.  Full details are still to be released, but the outline is as follows:

Stage 1 appeals – Centre Review

If a student wants to inquire as to whether there has been an administrative error when issuing their grade or whether our procedure has been correctly followed, they can make a decision as to whether they wish to appeal by considering our Centre Policy (mentioned earlier), the sources of evidence used to determine their grade and details of any special or mitigating circumstances that were (or weren’t) taken into account.

Stage 2 appeals – Appeal to the exam board

If they still don’t think they’ve got the correct grade following a Centre Review, they can ask us to appeal to the exam board which will review the evidence we hold that was used to determine their grade, review whether we did not apply a procedure properly (for example taking into account access arrangements or mitigating circumstances) or whether the exam board changed the grade submitted by error.

Any appeals will require student consent and students should be aware that grade can go up or down or stay the same.  Priority appeals will be available for students who have a place at university depending on the outcome and requests should be made by the student between 10th and 16th August as we will need to submit the appeal by 23rd August.   All other requests for appeal (non-priority) can be made between 10th August and 3rd September and we will need to submit by 17th September.

In conclusion

It is important to be clear on the expectation placed upon schools in terms of this process.  The process carried out in normal times largely by awarding bodies has now become the responsibility of schools.  The grades that we submit to awarding bodies are subject to acceptance once our processes are checked and following internal and external quality assurance, including the checking of evidence. 

The fact that we now carry the responsibility for awarding grades does not mean that we will be able to award grades without firm evidence of what students know, understand and can do in each of their subjects.  We will not be able to make judgement based upon potential.  Achieving a grade 7 on one exam paper once on the course might indicate potential, but without broader evidence it won’t be the sole determiner of the grade submitted for that student.  In reality, the evidence we will use will include more recently-produced materials and will cover a range of assessment both recent and from earlier in the course.

There are a series of controls in place both within the school and from awarding bodies to ensure that grades are a realistic and fair reflection of what students know, understand and can do.  Our controls will be rigorous and we will be transparent about what we do and how we do it.

I will write with further information to keep you updated as soon as possible and practical following the Easter break which I hope, for our students in particular, is a restful one.

S Koehler-Lewis

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