Exam boards have released guidance on how GCSE and A-level grades should be awarded this year – 12 weeks ahead of the exam board deadline for teachers.
The lack of notice drew opprobrium from some, including the joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), Dr Mary Bousted, who described the timing as “blatant disrespect for teachers”.
Dr Bousted and Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), welcomed the contents of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) exam board guidance, describing it as “helpful and comprehensive” and “clear” respectively.
The new Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) guidance instructs teachers on internal quality assurance processes and details appeals procedures. It also explains how students can apply for special consideration and what teachers should do to avoid falling foul of malpractice rules.
Philip Wright, director-general at JCQ, said the council and the exam boards “have worked with Ofqual and the DfE [Department for Education] to ensure our guidance has been published as quickly as possible following the outcomes of the conclusions of their consultation”.
“We understand, recognise and applaud the incredible effort of teachers in supporting students and their families over these tumultuous months,” he said.
“As we have developed the guidance, we have focused on three things: how best we can support teachers with helpful information, materials and templates; how we ensure compliance with Ofqual regulations and DfE requirements; and how we can keep the administrative burden for centres as manageable as possible.”
We remain disappointed that schools have had to wait three months for the details of these plans – Paul Whiteman, NAHT
Whiteman said: “We remain disappointed that schools have had to wait three months for the details of these plans. It would have been far better for the government to discuss and consult on a ‘plan B’ much earlier to avoid unnecessary confusion and worry for students.”
Dr Bousted said: “Once again, with blatant disrespect for teacher and school leader workload, guidance has been issued on a vital process at the end of the week and on the cusp of their holidays. While the guidance itself is helpful and comprehensive, any government worth its salt would have been preparing for this eventuality from September, so that everything was ready to go as soon as the decision was made to cancel exams.
“School leaders and teachers now need assurances from the Secretary of State that no new requirements will be made of them so that they can focus on carrying out high-quality assessments.”
Among the document’s many suggestions, the JCQ states that teachers will be able to use oral assessments in evidence where written work, such as coursework, mock exams or homework, cannot be used.
“In some limited circumstances, where other evidence is not available or possible to create, an oral assessment may be an appropriate form of evidence,” it explains.