The announcement on 20th March by the Department for Education that summer examinations are to be cancelled – but that qualifications would still be awarded – has led to anxiety and concern among students, parents, teachers and universities alike. This has been exacerbated by uncertainty over how this will be achieved. Understandably, it has taken some time for the qualification regulators to put in place a robust system that will ensure that every student receives final grades accurately reflecting their ability, hard work and development over time, so that no student is disadvantaged.
Given the wide variety of educational institutions in England and Wales and the differing circumstances of students, this has been no mean feat. Precisely because of the uneven capacity of schools nationally to provide the same levels of continued education, the regulators have had to adopt a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach i.e., what information could the least prepared school with least infrastructure be reasonably expected to provide.
Recently Ofqual announced details of the process that the AQA, Edexcel/Pearsons, OCR and WJEC/Eduqas boards will employ to award grades. This will involve two pieces of information from schools which will then be added to further information and standardisation by the exam boards:
• a school assessment grade i.e., a fair, reasonable and carefully considered judgement of the most likely grade a student would have achieved if they had sat their exams this summer and completed any non-exam assessment;
• a rank order of those students with identical grades, for each subject. This information will be requested from schools some time in the second half of the summer term, not before and schools are not permitted to give the information to students.