Grading in Summer 2021
How will grades be awarded this summer?
Grades for GCSEs, A levels, and most other qualifications including applied generals will be based on a process involving teacher assessment against national standards, internal quality assurance, and external quality assurance by the exam boards.
The national process defined by the Department for Education and the exams regulator, Ofqual is as follows:
- Teachers will assess students against a national standard, which will be defined by the exam boards before the Easter break.
- Departments will submit grades which will be quality assured by the school and the Trust. This internal quality assurance process will have to be signed off by the exam board to ensure it is rigorous and in line with national standards.
- Our school results will be quality assured externally by the exam boards, which will include random sampling of our school’s evidence.
- If the exam boards are confident in our submitted results, then the exam boards will award students their final grades.
- If students do not think their results are accurate, they will have the right to appeal. However, it is important to understand that appeals can result in grades going up or down or staying the same.
Frequently Asked Questions
So, will teachers award the grades?
Simply: no. The grade students achieve will start with their teacher’s assessment of their performance across a range of evidence. This is against a nationally-defined standard set by the exam boards, not teachers' own opinions. This assessment is then subject to both internal and external quality assurance before the final grade is awarded by the exam body as usual.
Does this mean grades are decided or limited by an algorithm?
No, unlike last year, students’ grades will not be changed by a formula. The internal and external quality assurance measures will all be done by humans, not an algorithm. There is no limit on the achievement of students, providing they have evidence that they are working at that grade.
What about loss of learning / impact of Covid?
This year, teachers will only assess students on content they have been taught – because of the continued disruption of the pandemic. This means students will not be disadvantaged if they individually, their whole class or whole year group have been unable to complete their full course. However, grades can only be submitted on the basis of the evidence we have of students’ performance, even if that evidence covers less of the course than usual. Students who would usually have access arrangements in the exams, such as extra time, will benefit from the same arrangements in teacher assessment.
Will grades be different between different schools and colleges?
No, the standard against which teachers will be assessing students is set nationally by the exam boards. This is the standard that will be used during quality assurance and appeals to ensure consistency and fairness across the system.
What will be in the baskets of evidence?
Teachers are able to draw on a range of assessment evidence from across a student’s study of the course, up until 28 May. This may include homework tasks, mock exams, and papers set by the exam boards. This may include evidence from before the second lockdown, as well as evidence from March – June. The exam boards are producing assessment materials that will be sent to us before Easter. Different departments may use different sources of evidence, and there is no requirement for any one type of assessment to be used – it’s about performance across a range of evidence.
The 'baskets of evidence' are here.
How much weight will target grades carry in the evidence?
Target grades are indicators rather than being the result of assessments and cannot be part of the basket of evidence.
The exam boards are only giving out past papers, how is this fair?
Most of the assessments provided by the exam boards will be drawn from past papers, although there will be new questions as well. There is significant research that even if students have seen assessments questions before, it does not reduce the validity of the assessment. Furthermore, exam board questions are only one of the many pieces of evidence we will use to assess students this summer.
Can students and parents make the case for why a student should get a higher grade?
Our teachers are using their professional expertise to assess students on the content they have been taught. Teachers are unable to submit higher grades for students unless they have the evidence that they are consistently working at this level. If teachers submit higher grades without evidence they are committing exam malpractice.
Teachers must not be put under pressure to submit desired grades. If students or parents are found to be putting teachers or leaders under undue pressure to increase grades, then this matter will be referred to the exam boards and an investigation into malpractice may ensue. This may result in the student’s certificate being removed entirely if malpractice is deemed to have taken place.
Can students discuss their grades with teachers?
Teachers will be able to discuss which evidence they are using to inform their judgement with students, including marked or graded pieces of work.
However, we are not allowed to disclose their final submitted grade we give to the exam board.
Students should not attempt to second-guess the grade submitted, as teachers will be using a range of evidence to inform their final judgement. Students must not pressure teachers to reveal the grades they are submitting, or to increase the grades, as doing so may be considered exam malpractice.
What should students do to improve their grades?
The best thing students can do is to continue to attend classes, learn, act on feedback from their teachers, revise, and read around their subject. Their grade will be based on their performance, and so their outcomes are ultimately in their hands.
When will students finish?
The government has recognised that evidence will need to have been collected by Friday 28 May (half term), in order to give schools time for final marking, moderation and submission by the 18 June deadline. We do require that students be contactable up to 18 June in case there are any queries that arise in that time.
How can we know that the Quality Assurance arrangements are good enough?
The grades schools submit will be awarded by exam boards only if they are happy with the school or college processes, and they are inspecting these processes through random sampling of schools and other visits.
What are the chances that I will get a better grade if I appeal?
In most cases, highly unlikely, for all these reasons:
- A rigorous process of internal and external quality assurance will already have taken place to ensure that the grades submitted are objective, fair and accurate.
- Approved Access Arrangements are being provided for those who need them.
- We are publishing the baskets of evidence being used to determine grades as we are required to do; so there shouldn’t be any surprises for anyone. These will be adjusted fairly for individuals where we know there are legitimate reasons to do so; this might involve discounting or using alternative evidence, for example.
- The Headteacher will submit a Declaration to each exam board to confirm that the correct processes have been followed by the school.
- There could be a difference of opinion without there being an unreasonable exercise of academic judgement but JCQ says that in an appeal the reviewer will not remark individual assessments to make fine judgements but will take a holistic approach based on the overall evidence.
- Appeals can lead to grades going up or down or staying the same. Unlike last year, students won’t get the best of their teacher assessed grade and the appeal grade; an appeal risks a student ending up with a grade that is lower than the grade submitted by the school.
Can I get a higher grade if my mock exam result is higher than the grade the exam board awards?
No. This year’s arrangements are in no way the same as last year’s. There are no grounds for appealing on the basis that a mock result was higher than the awarded grade. Also, mocks do not represent the whole course; typically representing between 50 and 70% content coverage.
Can you tell us what the final grades are before you submit them to the exam board?
We are not permitted to tell students, parents or carers the grades we are submitting to the exam boards.
Can the school just use the best evidence and ignore the rest?
No. We are not allowed to only look at the best bits of evidence and only consider those, that goes against the idea of a broad range of evidence that covers what has been taught.
I think there are circumstances the school should be aware of that might affect my basket of evidence, how do I let you know?
JCQ has instructed that, as far as possible, the evidence used to determine grades should be consistent across a class or year, but that may not always be the case in certain circumstances.
For example, it may be necessary to discount some evidence or replace it with other evidence, if
- a candidate faced additional disruption to their teaching and learning as a result of COVID 19, in comparison to their class peers;
- where approved access arrangements/reasonable adjustments were not or could not be in place for an assessment in the basket of evidence;
- where there is a request for mitigating circumstances to be considered, for example due to illness or other personal circumstances.
Teachers are already aware of some cases where a variation of evidence is required but it is not too late for you to tell us about anything we might not know about.
If you believe any of the three scenarios above might apply, please click here to submit a new request for us to consider. Senior leaders will consider the request and pass on to Heads of Subject if necessary. Submissions should be made by end of 14 May 2021 to allow us time to process them and if we require any further information we will contact you.
We will keep you informed about your request; please do not contact a teacher directly unless requested to do so, they will not be able to respond and this is not the correct process, it could also cause delays in addressing a request.
It is important that you raise any issues before we submit grades to the exam boards. You should not wait until after results are published in August.