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Pupil assessments: guidance for parents and students

Posted on 17 February 2021

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This January, the Government issued a consultation on its proposals for the teacher assessed grades system that will be adopted by schools this summer in place of exams. Aiming to learn from shortcomings in last year's system, the consultation specifically addresses some of the key issues that students faced last summer and proposes various reforms and clarifications.

Grades will need to be submitted by teachers to exam boards by 18 June 2021, with grades for both GCSEs and A Levels expected to be released in the week of 9 August. Any appeals should be submitted as soon as possible after results are released. In a response to the consultation, a group of teaching unions has proposed that appeals should be made directly to awarding organisations and not to schools and colleges as proposed in the Ofqual/Department for Education (DfE) consultation. It remains to be seen as to the approach Ofqual/DfE will take on this issue and we will update this guidance as soon as further details emerge.

Every pupil and their family has faced a unique set of challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, from strains on mental health to challenges juggling the necessary access to technology and space for home learning. We set out below our top tips for pupils (and parents) to ensure that they are as well prepared as possible for this year's grading assessments:

  1. Assessment starts NOW: this year, teachers will not be asked what grade a student might have received had exams taken place (as was the case in 2020). Instead teachers are expected to be asked to assess the standard at which pupils are currently performing, taking into account their demonstrated knowledge, understanding and skills. To be clear, this will therefore be an ongoing process. Teachers will be able to draw on a range of evidence when determining grades. Whilst previously A Level and GCSE pupils may have been able to afford to let their concentration lapse for a couple of weeks during term time before cramming for exams, Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) are likely to be based on a pupil's performance throughout the academic year. Whilst greater weight may be attributed to performance closer to the time of assessment, until the position is clearer, it is advisable to assume that all work may be taken into account by teaching staff when assessing grades this year. In short, consistency of effort is king.
  2. Discuss the grading framework with your teachers: the consultation recognised that pupils want to understand what work will be taken into account by teachers when determining their CAGs. Detailed guidance will be provided by exam boards to schools before the end of the spring term following which it is anticipated that schools and colleges will communicate the same to students.
  3. Personal circumstances: if your teachers are not aware of personal circumstances that have made studying harder during the pandemic they will be unable to take these factors into account during the grading process. Under the Government's proposed framework, teachers are encouraged to give sufficient weight to extenuating circumstances. Find someone at the school who you feel comfortable talking to, even if it is not the subject teacher, and make sure that they are aware of your personal circumstances and how this is affecting your ability to study. This includes, for example, family bereavement, caring duties, mental health and anxiety, limited access to schooling space at home and limited access to digital technology.
  4. Make the most of school resources: a number of schools are offering additional support to pupils who are facing particular challenges during the pandemic, from free school meals and supermarket vouchers to online book clubs and dance classes. Speak to someone at the school to make the most of any support they are able to offer. We expect that schools and colleges will run sessions or provide written guidance to pupils explaining the grading framework they intend to use. We strongly recommend that you attend these sessions and review any written guidance carefully so that you are able to ask questions and understand your options for appeal once results have been published.
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