Earlier this week, a letter from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to exams regulator Ofqual was published. The letter confirmed that GCSE, A S and A Level exams for the 2021 period have been cancelled and that an alternative method of assessment has been put in place, whereby students will be assessed based on their teachers’ evaluation over the course of their studies and awarded a grade accordingly. The proposal of setting externally set tasks has also been put forward, to ensure objective and fair standards are consistently met. The overall intention for the alternative assessments to exams is to acknowledge disruption to students learning and to award grades in “a fair and consistent fashion.” Chief Operator of Ofqual, Simon Lebez agreed that there was a need “to secure clarity for students and teachers as quickly as possible.”
So what does this mean for the current cohort of students?
Assessments will take place throughout 2021, but it is advised that a teacher’s final judgement be reserved until as late as reasonably possible to give students the opportunity to gain more contact hours and catch up on any learning gaps they may have encountered during the pandemic. This will allow teachers to gain a more thorough and holistic understanding of a student’s ability. The Education Secretary wants to “allow students to be assessed based on what they have learnt, rather than against content they have not had a chance to study.”
Most importantly, grades will be awarded based upon evidence. This evidence will be gathered by teachers and educating bodies who will be given training and support to effectively carry this out. Ofqual have been asked to consider this evidence to include “externally set tasks or papers, in order that teachers can draw on this resource to support their assessments of students” to which they responded positively. It has been agreed that a small sample of work cannot determine a student’s ability and therefore a ‘breadth of evidence’ should be gathered and evaluated. Ofqual have stated that, “We know that the more the evidence comes from students’ performance in externally set papers, the fairer and more consistent teachers’ assessments are likely to be, because all students are given the chance to show what they can do in the same way.”
Additionally, the letter reassures students and teachers alike that there will be no algorithm involved in predicting a candidate’s grade. It became apparent last year that this method didn’t work and awarded grades unfairly. As such, there is confirmation that all grading will be conducted by teachers and if there are any changes to be made, these will be carried out by education professionals rather than computer based models.
A process of consultation will take place over the next two weeks in which the government and Ofqual will determine and confirm the best routes forward in terms of 2021 assessments. During this period they will also determine how private candidates will be assessed, “It is important that there is a clear and accessible route for private candidates to be assessed and receive a grade, and so the consultation should seek views on their options to do so.”Ofqual agrees that there must be a system that is equally beneficial to private candidates. “We will consider carefully the different experiences of private candidates and the opportunities available to them to make sure the approach is fair to all and that they are not disenfranchised.”
AEC tutors continue to support students throughout the pandemic. Presently, we are offering remote learning to students. Once we have been given official guidance and further information from Ofqual and the government relating to private exam candidates, we will be able to provide students with information about how they can be assessed in 2021.