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Coronavirus: How will exams results work?

Coronavirus: How will exams results work?

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Jacob Webster at 9:58am 8th April 2020.

Students across Harrogate, Craven and Wharfedale learn their exams fate

  • Teachers will predict what they think their students would have achieved if they sat their exams.
  • These recommendations will then be moderated by exam boards.
  • Ofqual has said it will do what it can – “as far as possible” – to make grades fair.

Worried students in Harrogate have been told how their GCSE and A-Level grades will be awarded this summer – almost three long weeks after exam preparations were thrown into chaos by the coronavirus.

Ofqual, which oversees schools’ public examinations, this week announced that teachers will be asked to grade pupils on how they think they would have achieved – and these recommendations will then be moderated by exam boards.

The substitute system was swung into place by the government in March and will now affect thousands of Harrogate students who have been left in limbo until results are handed out in August.

And while Ofqual has said it will do what it can – “as far as possible” – to make grades fair, some education experts have warned that relying on teacher assessments is likely to penalise students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

School

How will it work?

Teachers’ predictions for A-levels, AS-levels and GCSEs will be based on the evidence available – such as previous exam results, tests, homework, coursework and mock exams.

North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate director of children, Stuart Carlton, said teachers will be taking into account the full “range of available evidence” – and added schools and colleges in the county have been given grading guidelines to make sure they are taking a fair, across the board approach when assessing students.

Using this, teachers will be asked to say what they think would have been the grades most likely to have been achieved if the summer exams had taken place.

But they will also be asked to put students in order of expected achievement within each predicted grade band.

This will be used to moderate the overall share of grades in schools across the country – and could mean an adjusting of the grades suggested by teachers if they seem too generous or harsh.

Students working and revising

Ofqual said schools will submit their assessments to the exam boards from 29 May, and final grades should be sent out on or before the usual mid-August results season.

But it has left some questions unanswered, including how appeals against final grades will be work and when students will have an opportunity to re-sit their exams if they think they can improve on their grades.

Separately, Ofqual said it was still considering how to award grades for external candidates and those taking the exams without a formal affiliation, such as students being home-schooled.

school books and tablet

What do they say? 

Ofqual’s chief executive, Sally Collier, said the exam watchdog’s “overriding aim in this is to be fair to students this summer.”

However, she has faced questions about how this can be fair for students who sat their mid-term mock exams and completed coursework under the impression that it was a trial run, rather than the real event.

Paul Whiteman, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, said there was no “perfect solution”, but substitute plan was “pragmatic and the fairest approach to take in these exceptional circumstances.”

He added:

“Of course, this is not a seamless solution. Students will have been expecting to go through a very different process. However, their grades will now be determined by the professionals who know them best; professionals who are well-equipped to make these judgements, and we hope that gives students confidence that they are in safe hands.”

Mary Bousted, joint leader of the National Education Union, welcomed the news that “grades won’t be based on mock exam results, or any other single piece of evidence alone”, but said teachers could be “uncomfortable” with putting students into rank order.

England’s education secretary, Gavin Williamson, said cancelling exams had been a “necessary step to help fight the spread of coronavirus”- and tried to assure students that grades awarded this summer will “accurately reflect students’ abilities and will be as valid this year as any other.”