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Guidance on Assessment for Examination Grades for 2020

on Thursday, 23 April 2020.

After the Government's decision to cancel all public examinations in summer 2020, there has been speculation about how final grades will be awarded and the fairness of this process.

On 3 April 2020, Ofqual published guidance for the first time on how grades will be awarded for specified exam courses.

Key aspects of the Ofqual grading procedure are:

  • All schools are asked to provide to the relevant awarding body a grade and rank for each pupil in each subject - the rank cannot be tied.
  • Grades must be an evidence-based judgment about the most likely outcome for each pupil. This is not target or predicted grades, which have distinct purposes and are based on different methodology.
  • Evidence which schools should consider includes progress review data, such as classwork, bookwork and participation in performances, as well as non-examination assessments and mock exams. The intent of the guidance is to establish a fair and consistent process. Accordingly, it has been widely interpreted that schools should only be considering evidence of performance from prior to 20 March 2020.
  • Schools are asked to account for any reasonable adjustments and or examination access arrangements as well as any exceptional circumstances which affect performance, which would ordinarily fall within the special consideration procedures.
  • Schools should include grades and ranks for external candidates registered with them as an examination centre, where there is sufficient evidence to be able to do so.
  • The grading procedure does not apply to pupils who had intended to take their final examinations early.
  • Awarding bodies will use a statistical model to standardise grading across examination centres. Centre grades can be adjusted for the cohort where the grading is considered to be too harsh or too generous, to ensure fairness and consistency across centres. 
  • The awarding bodies' deadlines for submission of centre grades and ranking will be notified to centres after Easter, but will not be any earlier than 29 May 2020.

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There will clearly be challenges in managing the perception and concerns of parents and pupils (which are already being reported) that outcomes and, perhaps, opportunities will be poorer using a system which estimates grades based on past performance. These concerns are understandable, and schools will want to do what they can to offer reassurance. Ofqual also announced on 15 April that a consultation has now been launched on the arrangements for exam grading and assessment in 2020, with the aim of canvassing opinion on creating a fair approach for all pupils concerned. For further information, please see the link here.

However, schools must ensure that they do not enter into any discussions with parents or pupils which could compromise a fair process. In particular, Ofqual has said that schools must not discuss grades or rank with parents and pupils, and it will be prudent to avoid entering into any substantive dialogue concerning the school's particular approach. Ofqual has produced guidance for pupils and parents, which you should refer them to in response to questions over process, fairness and accuracy.

Awarding bodies are issuing their own guidance. Schools are encouraged to engage with them early in relation to any issues with interpretation to ensure that they are adopting the right processes from the outset.

Further guidance will follow in due course concerning a right of appeal against final grade decisions, but this is expected to be very narrow. However, pupils who are dissatisfied with final grades will have the opportunity to sit the exams at a later date, and retain both grades. We would encourage schools to think early about their arrangements for supporting pupils who miss target grades, and about responding to feedback once grades are published in the summer.

In the meantime, there will be a significant amount of work to be done by schools, and parents can be reminded that this is taking place to ensure that their children still receive the grades they deserve in spite of the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in.

If you have any questions, please contact Yvonne Spencer on 07733 303 460 or Joanna Goddard on 07392 090 890 in the Regulatory Compliance team, or complete the form below.

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