The Education Minister has laid out his plans for the awarding of grades at A level, AS and GCSE for this academic year.
What went wrong last time?
Some 37% of pupil grades at A Level were lowered after external assessment which applied an algorithm (computer generated standardisation) to determine a final grade. That was abandoned a few days later with the results reverting back to original teacher awarded grades. Many pupils were left facing missing out on degree courses after being marked down
What will be different in 2021?
The algorithm has been binned. There will be more emphasis on teacher assessments, though there will still be some external standardisation, which would be the case in any given year.
What is the Minister’s plan?
Peter Weir has outlined a five point plan for the awarding of grades in 2021.
Stage 1 will begin now with training, support and guidance provided by CCEA to schools on what will be expected.
Stage 2 is the provision of assessment resources and sees teachers start to gather information on the work of pupils through their courses.
Stage 3 is the process of determining grades and internal moderation of those grades. This will happen in May.
Stage 4 is the external review of evidence - though there will be no algorithm. Some grades may change, but the Minister has stressed that this happens in any normal exam grading process.
Stage 5 sees results presented to pupils. August 24 for AS and A levels August 27 for GCSEs.
Will there be an appeals process?
There will be a post-award review service to enable any candidate dissatisfied with their grade to appeal the outcome. .
Candidates will have a right of appeal to their school or college around the centre determined grade. Challenges relating to the processes and whether they were followed or implemented correctly or consistently and in line with guidance will be processed by CCEA.
Are schools protected from potential legal action?
The same indemnity arrangements as last year will be in place to protect schools should they face legal challenges in relation to their role in the alternative awarding process.
What is expected of teachers?
More weight has been given to the professional judgement of teachers in 2021. This year there will be no statistical standardisation using an algorithm so there will be a direct link between the grade awarded and the actual work completed by the learner. Teachers will receive guidance starting from now, and the grading itself will take place in May. Teachers are to use ‘the full breadth of evidence available’ in order to arrive at a judgement about what each learner knows, understands and can do. Grades have to be lodged with CCEA by the end of May and there will then be moderation of centre assessments both within and across centres.
Will it be fair?
While the Minister still maintains exams are the best way of determining pupils achievements, it’s probably as fair as it’s going to be. The process is aligned to the rest of the UK so there will be no difference between jurisdictions when it comes to the awarding of grades.
CCEA will not set a statistical ceiling on grades. Each school and college will determine outcomes for its students based on the evidenced standard at which the student is performing. It is likely, however, that across our system overall grade outcomes in 2021 will be broadly similar to those awarded by centres in 2020.