Ofqual sets out details for schools, colleges, students, parents & carers on how GCSEs and A levels will be awarded following the cancellation of this year's exams Image:©-Chinnapong-AdobeStock_246988813.jpg

Ofqual sets out details on how GCSEs and A levels will be awarded

Ofqual has said that its new process will recognise students’ work fairly to make sure they get their grades in time to progress. This follows the Secretary of State for Education cancelling the 2020 exam series in England to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

For this summer’s awards, schools and colleges are being asked to provide centre assessment grades for their students.

Ofqual has instructed the schools and colleges that these assessment grades should be fair, objective and carefully considered. These will be judgments of the grades students would have been most likely to achieve if the students had sat their exams. 

Sally Collier, chief regulator, Ofqual, said:

“School or college based assessment already has an important role in many GCSEs, AS and A levels and 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. I would like to take this opportunity to thank teachers and school leaders for making this process work for students during these very challenging times.

“We have published a message to students to reassure them that we, and exam boards, will do everything we can to make sure that, as far as possible, grades are fair and that they are not disadvantaged in their progress to sixth form, college, university, apprenticeships, training or work because of these unprecedented conditions.”

Exam boards will be contacting schools, colleges and other exam centres after Easter asking them to submit, by a deadline that will be no earlier than 29 May 2020, the following:

  • A centre assessment grade for every student in each of their subjects: that is, the grade they would be most likely to have achieved if they had sat their exams and completed any non-exam assessment. Judgements should balance different sources of evidence such as:
    • Classwork
    • Bookwork
    • Any participation in performances in subjects such as music, drama or PE
    • Any non-exam assessment – whether or not complete
    • The results of any assignments or mock exams
    • Previous examination results – for example, for any re-sitting students or those with relevant AS qualifications
    • Any other records of student performance over the course of study
  • The rank order of students within each grade for each subject – for example, for all those students with a centre assessment grade of 5 in GCSE maths, a rank order where 1 is the most secure/highest attaining student, and so on. This information will be used in the statistical standardisation of centres’ judgements – allowing fine tuning of the standard applied across all schools and colleges
  • A declaration from the Head of Centre making the submission

Some students may need to take exams in the autumn or next summer

Heads of centre have been asked to provide centre assessment grades for private candidates (home-schooled, distance-learning programmes or studying independently) registered to take exams with their centre. 

Ofqual is exploring whether there are alternative options for students who need results this summer to progress and for whom a centre assessment grade is not possible.

It may be necessary for some students to take exams in the autumn or next summer to get their grades.

To make sure that grades are as fair as possible across schools and colleges, exam boards will put all centre assessment grades through a process of standardisation. If grading judgements in some schools and colleges appear to be more severe or generous than others, exam boards will adjust the grades of some or all of those students upwards or downwards accordingly.

To protect the integrity of centres’ judgements, schools and colleges have been told that they must not share their centre assessment grades with students, parents or carers, under any circumstances, until after final results are issued.

Students will also have the opportunity to sit exams at the earliest reasonable opportunity in the new academic year.

Many students will be taking other general and vocational or technical qualifications instead of or alongside GCSEs, AS and A levels.

While this process does not apply to those qualifications, the same aims apply. Ofqual is working to develop an approach and it will provide further information as soon as it can.