Coronavirus: Pupils told how GCSEs and A-levels will be graded

3 April 2020, 12:52 | Updated: 3 April 2020, 13:33

Schools have been told how to grade their students
Schools have been told how to grade their students. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Schools and colleges have been told exactly how to grade GCSE and A-level students using previous results after exams were cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Teachers have been instructed by Ofqual - England's exam regulator - to give pupils grades that are "fair, objective and carefully considered."

The score must be based on previous results and the work each student had completed up until coronavirus forced cancellation.

It should then accurately reflect what each child would have achieved if exams went ahead.

Read more: What’s taken into consideration when awarding GSCE and A level grades?

Ofqual told teachers to take into account classwork, non-exam assessments, mock exams and past exams when considering final scores for A level, AS level and GCSE exams this summer.

The organisation's chief regulator Sally Collier argued that similar assessments already play "an important role in many GCSEs, AS and A-levels."

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Students' grades will be determined through teacher-led assessments
Students' grades will be determined through teacher-led assessments. Picture: PA

She said: "In extraordinary circumstances such as these, schools and colleges are best-placed to judge the likely performance of their students at the end of the course.

"We have worked closely with the teaching profession to ensure that what we are asking is both appropriate and manageable so that everyone can have confidence in the approach."

'Standardisation'

Exam boards will have the power to adjust and standardise grades if some schools appear to be more generous or severe in their assessments than others.

Schools will then be contacted by exam boards no sooner than 29 May, after which they will be asked to submit their evaluations.

Students will not receive their grade until all final results are issued, but it is hoped this will be before the previously planned results day in August.

They will also have the chance to sit exams at the earliest opportunity in the new academic year.

'Fair and objective assessments'

Ms Collier sent a message of reassurance to children and parents, reassuring them that grades will be "fair and that they are not disadvantaged in their progress to sixth form, college, university, apprenticeships, training or work."

Most schools and colleges were forced to shut two weeks ago as the country took its first steps towards lockdown.

Pupils were informed that teacher assessments would likely be used to issue their grades, but some took to social media using #SchoolClosuresUK to share their frustrations.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "Cancelling this summer's exams was a necessary step to help fight the spread of coronavirus by asking people to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

"Despite the difficult circumstances we are facing, this guidance provides assurance to students, parents and schools that grades awarded this summer will accurately reflect students' abilities and will be as valid this year as any other."

'Based on previous work'

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers said that while it was "not a perfect solution" it was "pragmatic and the fairest approach to take" in the exceptional circumstances.

"Of course, this is not a seamless solution. Students will have been expecting to go through a very different process," he said.

"However, their grades will now be determined by the professionals who know them best; professionals who are well-equipped to make these judgements, and we hope that gives students confidence that they are in safe hands.

"Where pupils are not content, appeals are possible and autumn exams are being discussed."

Clare Marchant, CEO of Ucas, the UK's universities and colleges admission service, called the announcement "really welcome news" for students and her organisation.

She said: "It means you will be getting those A-level grades and if you're looking to progress to higher education in the autumn, you will have something to make that choice with.

"You will be getting offers, you will be getting confirmations from universities. Please take your time to respond to those."

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