autumn exam series

Schools will have to provide samples of student work within two days of being asked under the quality assurance process for teacher assessed grades this year.

It is the latest Ofqual update to the grading process this year – with just under eight weeks to go until the submission deadline on June 18.

In a blog published today, Cath Jadhav, Ofqual’s director of standards and comparability, said exam boards would request samples of work from all schools.

This process will form part of the third stage of quality assurance, which involves sampling of schools’ grades after submission.

The disclosure has prompted angry responses from school leaders.

Jonny Uttley, chief executive of the TEAL multi academy trust, said it is a “bureaucratic waste of time”.

Stuart Lock, chief executive of Advantage Schools, said there was “no point” in the submission which would “give a façade of validity and cost millions of hours of adults’ time which should be focused on the children”.

“This is really disappointing from Ofqual,” he added. “I presume it is so that they can be seen to be doing something.”

Others have pointed out how the checks fit with Gavin Williamson’s promise to “trust teachers” over this year’s grading process.

Exam boards will request samples from at least five students in at least one subject at A-level and two subjects at GCSE, one of which is likely to be either English language or maths.

Boards will let schools know which subjects and students have been selected for sampling in the week of June 21.

Jadhav said schools would need to “promptly” submit the evidence – within 48 hours of the request – so it is important a school’s evidence and records “are in good order ahead of that date”.

Subject experts at the boards will then review evidence provided by a sample of schools.

Some will be chosen at random, but others will be targeted based on other factors, such as “significant changes in entry patterns” or where a centre is identified as needing additional support.

Boards will also select schools where the proportion of grades in 2021 appears “significantly higher or lower” than results in previous years when exams took place – 2017, 2018 and 2019.

But the comparison will be made at qualification level, rather than individual subject.

Boards will prioritise checks at schools where results are “more out of line” with historical results.

But Jadhav said it does not mean schools must award grades “to closely match those in previous years” or that the information from previous years “should be used to suppress results”.

“There can be good reasons for results to vary from one year to the next, and centres should record the reasons for any substantial variances, in line with the centre’s policy.”

The first two stages of quality assurances involve every school having their centre policy summary reviews by exam boards. Virtual visits will then take place at the second stage, if the board has questions or concerns.

The JCQ guidance published last month said that a school’s failure to engage in quality checks could lead to further investigation.