Independent sector responds to Ofqual grade plan

The chair of the Independent Schools Council said the exam regulator had done “the best it can”

Leading figures from the independent school sector have welcomed the announcement from the exams regulator on how GCSEs and A-level grades will be awarded this year.

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) were tasked with developing a process to fairly assess students’ achievements after the government cancelled this summer’s exams because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The guidance asks schools and colleges to submit an “assessment grade for every student in each of their subjects: that is, the grade they would be most likely to have achieved if they had sat their exams and completed any non-exam assessment”.

Judgments should be reached using classwork, bookwork, non-exam assessment, mock exams and assignments.

Teachers will also be asked to rank each student within a subject and within each grade, drawing upon all the evidence available. Ofqual will not allow schools to give students joint positions because it will use the school’s rankings to help calculate where grade boundaries should be placed.

We have worked closely with the teaching profession to ensure that what we are asking is both appropriate and manageable
– Sally Collier, Ofqual

“School or college based assessment already has an important role in many GCSEs, AS and A levels and in extraordinary circumstances such as these, schools and colleges are best placed to judge the likely performance of their students at the end of the course,” said Sally Collier, chief regulator at Ofqual.

“We have worked closely with the teaching profession to ensure that what we are asking is both appropriate and manageable, so that everyone can have confidence in the approach. I would like to take this opportunity to thank teachers and school leaders for making this process work for students during these very challenging times.”

Schools and colleges have been told the deadline for submitting A-level grades will be no earlier than 29 May 2020. Ofqual said it hoped to publish the final grades on or before the usual mid-August results period.

Ofqual has ‘done the best it can’

Fiona Boulton, chair of HMC and head of Guildford High School, praised the plans.

“We are committed to reliable and just outcomes for all pupils, and parents can trust that schools will work meticulously to make sure the grades we award are fair. HMC would encourage all schools to develop a clear protocol outlining their particular approach to making predicted grades and ranking students, to show they have acted reasonably,” Ms Boulton said.

“Teachers know their students and assess them on an ongoing basis, and it’s likely that the majority of pupils will be happy with the outcome and go on to the next stage in their lives as planned. For those who are unhappy with their result, they can sit an exam and teachers will do everything possible to help them prepare.

“I would pay tribute to teachers, who are doing a fantastic job of moving to teaching and learning online and caring for the children of key workers and those who are vulnerable. We are pleased to see that a reasonable timescale has been given for teachers to calculate grades, and I know they will rise again to the challenge.”

Ofqual has asked universities and FE colleges to consider private candidates for whom a centre assessment grade is not possible when making admissions decisions this summer. It also said some private candidates may need to take exams in the autumn or next summer to get their grades.

We expect teachers will now be given the support and guidance they need to produce their predicted grades
– Barnaby Lenon, ISC

Barnaby Lenon, chair of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), cautiously welcomed the announcement. Mr Lenon said the regulator “had done the best it can” in what he described as “almost impossible circumstances”.

“We expect teachers will now be given the support and guidance they need to produce their predicted grades and pupils should be reassured that there will be an exam sitting, hopefully in the autumn, for those who are not satisfied with their results. We hope that universities will show flexibility to ensure that students who take this option are able to begin their course with a delayed start time,” Mr Lenon added.

The body representing nearly all public universities in the country confirmed that universities would have a “flexible” approach to admissions.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “To provide additional reassurance to students, it is important to note that universities will also have the power to be flexible in taking an applicant’s context into account as part of the admissions process.”

Clare Marchant, Ucas’ chief executive, said: “It’s essential for their future education and careers that students receive a set of fair and justifiable examination results. The processes outlined by Ofqual today will do exactly that.

“The best available evidence in the extraordinary circumstances we are all in will be used to calculate regulated grades that will stay with students for years to come.

“For those applying to higher education, we expect them to be treated fairly and consistently, and universities and colleges to consider these grades in the same way as any qualifications from previous years.”

You might also like: Coronavirus: independent schools face ‘new norm come September’ – ISA


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