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Coronavirus: Don’t seek further work to support GCSE and A-level grades, union tells leaders

Teachers and leaders “should not be seeking further work” from pupils to support their GCSE and A-level grades this year, the ASCL leadership union has said.

In guidance issued to headteachers, which seeks to pre-empt an expected government announcement on plans for assessments this year, the union said priorities for pupils in years 11 and 13 are “to ensure that they complete the curriculum in the subjects which they wish to pursue in the following year, not to add collateral to the assessment process”.

It was announced earlier this month that GCSE and A-level exams will be cancelled this summer and replaced with a system of moderated teacher assessments.

Some schools are setting work for pupils in anticipation of the assessments.

But in ASCL’s policy paper, deputy head of policy Duncan Baldwin said this was the wrong approach.

“On a practical note, ASCL would advise teachers and leaders that they should not be seeking any further work from students at this point to support teacher-assessed grades,” he said.

“Not all students will be able to respond; some will be ill whilst others will be living under more difficult circumstances at home.”

He also said it would be “wrong” for teachers to “give more students the benefit of the doubt by, for example, awarding more grade 4s than they might otherwise have obtained”.

“Awarding organisations and Ofqual will take steps to ensure that grade distributions resemble previous years. Where centres produce grades which seem particularly generous, a moderation process will be applied.

“Assuming that things head back to normal for the 2021 cohort, an inflated picture in 2020 would disadvantage those students currently in year 10 and year 12. They have enough to contend with having had their own studies disrupted.”

Baldwin said the system presented an “opportunity” for the profession to show “that it can, and will, produce reasonable grades through the process of teacher assessment”.

“For those who believe that the current system of examinations at 16 is inappropriate there is a chance here to show that an alternative universe is possible.”

ASCL is advising teachers should first consider what grade “would be the most plausible” if pupils were actually going to take the exam in the summer, then rank order the students within those grades, so that if the gradings need to be adjusted, then it is “clear which pupils would be affected, in either direction”.

This is a “difficult process”, Baldwin admitted, and “relies on teachers being fair and reasonable with their own pupils but also understanding the same process is being applied everywhere else”.

Finally, teachers should consider “whether the cohort of pupils and their grades taken together would be what you would have expected on results day”.

Baldwin added that there was “no need to rush”.

“What is important is that the process is well thought through and works in the best interest of students. We greatly appreciate that many of our members have their own ideas and concerns about all of this.

“We would like to reassure all of them that everyone involved is working hard and with great sensitivity to make this fair. Above all, this process will only work if the profession works together in a consistent, fair and ethical way. The students affected by this deserve nothing less.”

Ofqual is expected to provide details about how the teacher assessment system will work this week. Information about appeals and how the regulator will make sure grades are fair across schools are expected “by Easter”.



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2 Comments

  1. Teachers and leaders “should not be seeking further work” from pupils to support their GCSE and A-level grades this year,

    ” the union said priorities for pupils in years 11 and 13 are “to ensure that they complete the curriculum in the subjects which they wish to pursue in the following year, not to add collateral to the assessment process”. ”

    Muddle thinking: how would you know whether the curriculum has been learnt? by assessments. And in any event most students make rapid progress from now to when the exams normally are. The grades awarded need to reflect what they would have got in May and June, not if they sat the exams today. Clearly, the only way to measure this progress is some form of assessment, which given schools are closed will have to take the form of open book essays etc.

  2. Anne-Marie Dunn

    I am following this whole discussion both as an educator and as a parent of 2 A Level students in their final year.

    I make a plea.

    Students learning and approach to their studies takes many forms. The grading of this year’s exams must reflect this and the role of teacher assessment is crucial. Students potential is absolutely not simply a reflection of their data to date. They signed up to a final exam system and have worked on that basis. Many are absolutely bereft at the present moment. They are anxious and upset. Most feel cheated of their opportunity to prove themselves and earn their grades.

    I have a daughter who moved up 3 grade bands in 4 subjects at GCSE and 4 grade bands in another. If her A level grades are based on attainment to date these will not reflect her potential. She is by no means alone. I absolutely understand the need for integrity and a robust process but the grading system must also be able to accommodate ALL students.

    I read this article and feel very concerned that teachers will be pressured into a position of conservative grading for fear of having to substantiate their recommendations when their may be little evidence for this in some cases. We need to have faith in our teachers and encourage them to look beyond the historical and the hard data.

    I understand this is a very complicated process with many masters to serve but please DO be generous in your thinking. Please do not treat students in all their diverse and amazing forms as pieces of data. Take a leap of faith albeit a very measured one.
    Please.

    A very concerned parent of two anxious and concerned students.