Pupils sitting autumn exams will have generosity of summer 2020 grades – Ofqual
By Eleanor Busby
Students who are sitting GCSE and A-level exams this autumn will be given the same generosity in their grades as in the summer, Ofqual has confirmed.
Pupils in England who were unhappy with their grades this year, or who were unable to receive a grade due to the pandemic, have been given the chance to sit A-level exams in October and GCSE exams in November.
England’s exams regulator has said it is “working with exam boards to carry forward the generosity from summer 2020 grades”, the majority of which were based on grades submitted by schools or colleges.
It comes after the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students this summer, when exams were cancelled amid Covid-19.
Thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by an algorithm, before Ofqual announced a U-turn, allowing them to use teachers’ predictions.
In a blog on the watchdog’s website about the autumn exam series, Ofqual said exam boards will “rely much more heavily on the judgment of their expert senior examiners” due to lower entry numbers.
A-level entries are just over 20,000 for the autumn series, compared with more than 700,000 entries in a summer series.
It adds: “Examiners will be guided by proxy grade boundaries. Exam boards will generate these by looking at how far the 2019 grade boundaries for each specification would have to move to achieve the proportion of students at the key grades we saw for each of those specifications in summer 2020.”
“Archive student work, as well as several other sources of evidence about where grade boundaries should be set, will also be considered.”
In the summer, the proportion of GCSE and A-level entries in England awarded top grades surged to a record high following the grading U-turn.
Last week, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that the 2021 exams will go ahead in England, but they will be delayed by three weeks next year.
On next year’s exams, Ofqual’s blog adds: “We know that schools, colleges and students want to know more about the approach that we will take to setting standards in summer 2021.”
“Before we take a decision on that, we will be talking to exam boards, government, school and college leaders, parents and students, and we will say more on this before the end of the year.”
On the grading plans for the autumn exam series, Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “This approach avoids disadvantage to students taking the autumn series compared to those awarded grades in the summer and recognises that this year has to be viewed as an exceptional response to the Covid emergency.”
“However, it does raise questions over how grade boundaries will be set next summer. Our view is that it would be unfair to go back to the grade distribution of 2019 given the huge impact of Covid on the current cohort of students and we have proposed an additional allowance on the 2019 grade boundaries for exams in 2021.”
“This is a crucial issue which the Government and Ofqual must address as soon as possible to give schools, colleges and students certainty.”