Students could take mini-exams to help teachers come up with GCSE and A-level grades


GCSE and A-level students across North Staffordshire could be asked to sit mini-exam papers this summer to help teachers come up with their final grades.

The plans are set out in a consultation document published today, which follows the Government’s decision to scrap traditional external exams due to the pandemic.

Rather than sending off the papers to be marked by exam boards, they would be marked internally and form part of the evidence used to judge a pupil’s performance.

And if some teenagers can’t go into school as they are self-isolating, they could even be given the tests at home.

Work completed earlier in the year could also inform the teacher-assessed grades. Other evidence could come from mock exam results and, in certain subjects, coursework assignments.

Exams regulator Ofqual and the Department for Education have proposed:

  • Getting teachers to assess students between the beginning of May and early June;
  • Asking schools and colleges to submit their grades by mid-June;
  • Carrying out quality assurance on the grades, with some sampling of students’ work;
  • Looking at whether to bring results day forward from late August to as early as July;
  • A number of options to help private candidates, such as home-educated children, who can’t ask a school to submit teacher-assessed grades. It could involve exam boards marking their mini-exams or even taking full-scale GCSE and A-level exams in the summer or autumn.

In a joint forward to the consultation, Ofqual’s chief regulator Simon Lebus and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said coronavirus will have caused significant disruption to many young people’s education.

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They added: “It is likely that schools’ and colleges’ ability to teach the entire curriculum and provide the usual exam preparation support will be impacted.

“We also recognise that the impact of the pandemic varies between regions, between schools and colleges within a region, and from student to student according to their circumstances.

“We know that students are disappointed. Their interests are at the centre of our considerations, so the results they receive through the alternative approach must be credible and meaningful.”

The mini-exams could involve a mixture of questions from GCSE and A-level past papers and new questions drawn up by exam boards.

Another option is to issue schools with a selection of shorter papers based on individual topics. They could then tailor the exams to the work they know pupils have studied.

But the document warned: “We do not believe that teachers should be asked to decide the grade a student might have achieved had the pandemic not occurred. That would put them in an impossible position.”

The grades should instead be based on actual evidence of students’ work and show they have ‘demonstrated knowledge, understanding and skills’.

More controversially, teenagers who want to appeal their grades will be expected to appeal to their school or college in the first instance. An independent review could then be carried out.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), described the proposed appeals process as ‘misguided in principle and logistically very problematic’.

But he added: “The idea of externally set assessments could be of significant benefit. The evidence base which schools and colleges have to assess students is much smaller than last year.”

Young people, parents, teachers and school leaders are now being urged to submit their views before the consultation ends on January 29. For details, click here.





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