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Teachers To Decide GCSE & A Level Grades This Year

The exams watchdog Ofqual has this week confirmed that GCSEs and A Levels cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic will be replaced by grades that are decided by teachers. But what does this actually mean for your child?

Teachers will not simply decide on a grade; instead grades will be determined using a combination of coursework, essays and mock exams. All exam boards will set optional assessment papers - but these will not be taken in the usual strict exam conditions, and they also will not determine final grades for students. Schools can decide on which evidence to use, and the system is built around teachers’ judgement. Teachers can also tell students how they have fared in test papers set by exam boards (if taken), but cannot disclose their final grade.

Ofqual has also said that results will be published earlier in August this year, so that students have more time to appeal their grades. A Level results day will be 10th August this year, and GCSE results day will be 12th August.

Schools will not be expected to keep in line with last year’s results and there will be no fixed share of grades. Instead, teachers will use their professional judgement to award grades, using the evidence available to them. Schools will be provided with guidance on grading, and must ensure consistency between teachers. Exam boards will also check random samples. If they have specific concerns about an unusual result, they will have the power to investigate and amend grades.

The government has said this is the best way to ensure students whose lives have been disrupted by the pandemic are able to move on to the next stage of their education or career.

The definite good news is that after the problems with last year’s GCSE and A Level grades, there will be no controversial algorithm deciding on grades. Last year many students found that they had been unfairly downgraded and eventually Ofqual agreed to allow them to use teachers’ predicted grades instead.

Some people are worried that this approach runs the risk of inflation of grades - but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had already announced that exams would be replaced by teacher-assessed grades for this academic year. This may work well for those students who don’t do well under exam pressure; many believe this is the “least worst option” available after an unprecedented year of disruption for students.

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