2021 Assessment of Exam Qualifications

Ofqual Exam Consultation 2021

Today, Ofqual and the Department of Education jointly pubished the results of the consultation on assessment of qualifications for the summer 2021 series in light of the cancellation of formal exams. The full detail of the announcement may be read here and a copy of the consultation documents may be accessed here.

Below, we have answered a number of questions put to us by members of the Tutors Learning Network a with reference to how to support students going forward and the decisions made with regards to teacher / tutor assessed grades.

What evidence can be used to create an assessed grade?

In their statement, Ofqual have stated that:
Teachers will be able to use evidence about your performance gathered throughout your course to inform their judgement. This might include work that you have already completed, mock exam results, homework or in-class tests. Your teachers may also use questions from exam boards, largely based on past papers, to help assess you, but this won’t be compulsory….

…Exam boards will provide a package of support materials to schools, colleges and other exam centres, including questions and mark schemes….Wherever possible, the exam boards will base this material on questions that have appeared in past exam papers.”

Whilst we were expecting a bank of questions created by various exam boards which would then be made available to teachers and tutors, it would appear that formal questioning in exam styles will use questions from a variety of past papers or the teacher or tutor will adapt past paper questions so that students are asked something similar but different. This guidance is expanded upon within the consultation report where it is stated that the support packs “will include a proportion of previously unpublished questions for every subject”.

We are aware that this puts the onus on the teacher / tutor to then write the appropriate markschemes and therefore expect that in this case any markschemes will be internally moderated or verified. Ofqual have made pains to state several times that the use of exam board support materials is not compulsory in order to assess a grade for a student.

Will students still be given concessions for exam conditions?

In their report, Ofqual have stated that:

“Reasonable adjustments should be taken into account if you have a disability.”

It is our understanding that any assessments that are undertaken for our students should allow for any exam considerations that a student is identified as requiring. For example: extra time, a reader, or a scribe. Where it is not possible to provide these concessions, we would expect grades to be adjusted to reflect this. The vast majority of exam concessions however, can be adapted for online assessment.

This statement is further outlined on page 19 & 20 of the consultation document where an equalities impact assessment has been undertaken in line with section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010.

How much of the course must be assessed?

In their report, Ofqual have stated that:

“We will not set any requirements about the minimum amount of content that should be taught or assessed, but we will ask the head of your school or college to confirm that you have been taught enough content so that you can progress to the next stage of your education.”

Our understanding here is that assessment should be provided for any area that has been taught or tutored and the expectation is that assessment will be as wide as possible. Although there will be no minimum content that must be covered in order to confirm that your student should receive a grade it is likely that you will be required to sign a confirmation to say that that student would be ready to take your subject to a higher level of study should they wish to. We are acutely aware that this may lead to parental pressure on tutors and would urge all members of the Tutors Learning Network to ensure that they have a written academic honesty policy that includes the expectation of professional standards. A further recommendation is that this wording is taken directly from the teaching standards document provided by the Department of Education.

The rationale behind no minimum requirement topics is linked to those schools where students through no fault of their own were unable to access formal teaching of topics.

Can a tutor add their own assessment to that given by a teacher?

In the consultation report, Ofqual have stated that:
“teachers must assess their student’s performance only on what content has been delivered to them by their teachers, to determine the grade each student should receive”

We understand this to mean that only the works submitted by the student to that particular teacher may be considered and not any additional work such as that undertaken with a tutor or work that could be considered extra credit.

For our home educated students this may be a little easier as they would likely be working with a private candidate centre. As a tutor, if you have not already done so it would be prudent to be in contact with the exam centre that your students have registered with to ensure that you are in a position to provide academic support and an assessed grade on their behalf.

Will exam centres be prevented from charging students large fees for assessment?

In their online statement of 25th February 2021, Ofqual have stated that:

“The Department for Education is working to make sure there are enough centres available, without it costing more than it normally would, and will publish more on this shortly.”

Last year we were made aware of a number of exam centres who were charging large fees to obtain an assessed grade and insisted that only a select few tutors employed by themselves were used for assessment. The statement made by Ofqual that home educated students will be able to access grades without it costing more than it normally would is welcomed. However, we will need to wait for confirmation of how the required hours for assessment will be funded for the students as they will need to have access to formal assessment from education professionals.

Will there be a system in place for late registration?

In their online statement of 25th February 2021, Ofqual have stated that:

“our position is that any student who has been preparing to take a qualification, either in a school or college or as a private candidate, should be able to receive a grade so long as they are able to become registered with an exam board centre who is able to determine a grade for them.”

We are aware that a number of private candidate exam centres have extended their registration deadline to the 1st of March and have been specifically asked to be flexible in their approach to allowing students to register. This flexibility has been highlighted specifically for students who have registered with an exam centre who find themselves in a position to no longer be able to support the student with an assessed grade.

What moderation practices will be in place?

In their report, Ofqual have stated that:

“Exam boards will put in place quality assurance arrangements to make sure consistent judgements are being made and your head teacher or principal will sign off all grades.”

This appears to reflect the moderation process of many aspects of coursework. Where a tutor is assessing a grade, it would be useful to work in collaboration with a second tutor of the same subject to confirm the marking and grading given. Where a tutor is working directly with an exam centre to provide an assessed grade, the exam centre will have a moderation process in place and they will be required to confirm this to the Department of Education and exam board.

What is the latest date for assessment?

Within their announcement a firm date for assessment has not been given. Instead, schools and exam centres have been advised that assessment should continue for as long as reasonably possible. We expect that further guidance will be provided to exam centres in terms of the final date for submitting assessed grades and supporting evidence. It is likely that each private candidate exam centre will provide its own deadline date in order to undertake the moderation process.

What has been announced is that AS and A Level results will be announced on the 10th of August and GCSEs on the 12th of August. With this in mind, it is our understanding that assessed grades will need to be with exam boards well in advance to enable the publishing of grades and any sampling of work as required.

Can students opt to sit exams in the autumn instead?

In their online statement of 25th February 2021, Ofqual have stated that:

“an autumn exam series was not the preferred solution for most private candidates. However, we noted that many students who responded to the consultation said that they would welcome the opportunity to take an exam if they were disappointed with the summer grade. We will consult on whether we should regulate for an autumn series to be held…”

From this statement, it is our understanding that at present no autumn series is planned and any student who wishes to achieve a grade in 2021 will need to be registered and access a teacher or tutor assessed grade through their exam centre.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *