Government To Aim For ‘Fairness And Flexibility’ With Grades Decided By Teachers

‘Fairness and flexibility’ are set to be ‘at the heart’ of plans for grading pupils exam results, the government has said.

Students will receive grades awarded and determined by teachers, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught, the Education Secretary announced today, Thursday, 25 February.

Teachers will be able to draw on a range of evidence when determining grades, including the optional use of questions provided by exam boards, as well as mock exams, coursework, or other work completed as part of a pupil’s course, such as essays or in-class tests.

Unlike last year when the algorithm caused stress for pupils, parents and teachers, it will not be used.

Teachers will submit grades to exam boards by June 18, allowing as much teaching time as possible before teachers make their assessments.

Results days for GCSE, A level and some vocational qualifications will take place in the week of August 9 – moved forward from the week of the August 23.

These earlier dates provide additional time for appeals to be completed, so students reliant on those outcomes to achieve their university offer have the best chance of accessing a place.

To support teachers in making their judgements, exam boards will provide detailed guidance before the end of the spring term.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Young people have shown incredible resilience over the last year, continuing with their learning amidst unprecedented challenges while the country battles with this pandemic. Those efforts deserve to be fairly rewarded.

“That’s why we are providing the fairest possible system for those pupils, asking those who know them best – their teachers – to determine their grades, with our sole aim to make sure all young people can progress to the next stage of their education or career.”

Students studying vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) that are often taught alongside GCSEs and A levels on one or two year courses, and used for university or college places, will also receive grades assessed by teachers rather than sitting exams.

Exams and assessments will continue in VTQs where they are needed for students to demonstrate the necessary professional standard in an occupation.

“I also recognise many students need their vocational and technical qualifications to enter into work,” Williamson continued, “Exams and practical assessments in these courses are essential for the students to progress to the next stage, and so it’s right that these continue.”

Schools, colleges and other educational settings will conduct multiple checks – such as checking consistency of judgements across teachers and that the correct processes were followed – to ensure as much fairness as possible.

At the same time, exam boards will conduct their own checks, through a combination of random sampling and more targeted scrutiny where they identify cause for concern.

Every student will have the right to appeal their grade.

The proposals being taken forward were supported in responses to the department and Ofqual’s largest ever consultation, with over 100,000 responses of which just over half (52 percent) came from pupils.

Ofqual’s Interim Chief Regulator Simon Lebus explained the aim of the change is to ‘make it no harder overall for this year’s students to receive a particular grade than students in other years’.

He said: “We know how difficult this past year has been for many students, parents, schools and colleges. In normal years, we rely on exams to support students’ progression.

“This year it is teachers’ judgement that will be used to assess what has been learned and determine student grades.

“Assessment cannot itself serve as an instrument to recover lost learning and compensate for the different experiences students will have had in different parts of the country, and the arrangements being put in place will therefore only take into account what students have been taught, not what they have missed.

“The aim is to make it no harder overall for this year’s students to receive a particular grade than students in other years.

“I am confident that these arrangements will allow all parts of the education and training sector to work together collectively to make sure students’ grades reflect what they have achieved and provide a sound basis to enable them to make good decisions about their future.”

It’s stated there will be a clear and accessible route for private candidates to work with a centre to receive a grade this year, at the same time as other candidates.

Exam boards will provide centres with clear guidance on the evidence they can use to assess a private candidate.

A list of available centres will be published shortly and, the government says it is working with the sector to ensure there are sufficient centres available and at a similar cost to a normal year.