The last five months have been a completely unprecedented time for schools, parents and especially students and particularly those in Year 11. We fully understand the shock, worries and concerns that students would have had about their results once the exams were cancelled. There has been lots in the press since last week when the A-level results were published which has only added to the uncertainties that our Year 11 students and their families are facing this year in the lead up to the publication of GCSE results on Thursday. As a parent whose son is also in Year 11, I understand only too well that this may be a challenging week for you and your family and I wanted to write to you today to share all the information that we have at the present time.
As a school we are hoping that our submitted Centre Assessed grades will not be adjusted significantly by the exam boards. However, across all schools in the country, the grades submitted by schools are much higher than the standards in previous years and so we are aware that there will be many students in England who will be awarded grades that are adjusted downwards so that the GCSE grades awarded this year are viewed at an equal value to previous years by employers, colleges, universities etc.
Guidance has been issued to schools from both the Department for Education and from Ofqual throughout the last few months with the intention of providing GCSE grades for students this year that are as fair as possible but that ensure standards remain at the same levels as in previous years.
Ofqual are the body that oversees all the exam boards and they have been responsible for the grading process this year and they then provide guidance for the exam boards to follow.
Some of the guidance that has been issued is directly aimed at students so that they can understand how the grades were decided and also what they can do if they think that the grades that they have received are unfair.
The links to the most relevant guidance are below:
Student guide for those receiving qualifications this summer can be found here
(This guide explains how grades were generated and moderated by exam boards)
The Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP who is the Minister of State for school standards has written to Headteachers of all schools last Friday explaining that to ensure students get fair grades this year the Department for Education are now putting in place a process they are calling the Triple Lock process.
What this ‘Triple Lock process’ means for students is that the government is giving them 3 options as follows:
(1) Accept their calculated grade
This is the grade that they will have been issued on results day based upon the Centre Assessment Grades that were generated by the school and the teachers who knew them best and that were then moderated using computer algorithms created by the appropriate exam board, to ensure that pass rates in each subject remain roughly the same as in previous years.
(2) Appeal to have the calculated grade replaced by a valid mock result
Guidance was briefly issued last week to explain what evidence was acceptable as a ‘valid mock result’ and to outline the process but this was suddenly withdrawn on Saturday by OFQUAL. We anticipate that this guidance will be in place in the next few days and will let you know when it becomes available.
Additionally, there is a third option available regardless of the choice in 1) or 2) above:
(3) Sitting an exam in the autumn term
Students are also being given the opportunity to take an examination in any of the subjects they were entered for in June. The grade achieved in this exam will not affect the grade awarded previously to the student.
These exams are planned to take place between the 2nd and the 23rd of November. The school the student attended in year 11 is responsible for exam entry and for providing a place for the student to sit the exam; this could be on the school site or it might be in a local centre elsewhere. The costs for these exams will be paid by the school who can then claim the funds back from the Department for Education.
Students can choose to sit an exam in any subject that they were entered for in June 2020 and the only exception to this is for students who achieved lower than a grade 4 in English or Maths, as these students should follow the normal procedure which is to continue to study English or Maths at college and then take the GCSE exam at college, either in November or in June 2021.
The government has not put in place any capacity for additional teaching support to prepare students who wish to do these exams. Additionally, schools will all be facing the challenges of rebuilding school communities in a covid-safe manner and teachers in September/October will be focussed upon meeting the educational demands of the children who have not been in school since March. This will mean that students choosing to take exams in the autumn exam series will need to prepare themselves for each exam alongside the work they are required to do for their college courses or in their workplaces if they are undertaking an apprenticeship.
Given the expectations of a ‘second wave’ of Covid-19 within the UK population and the potential for local lockdowns, students should also factor into their thinking that there is the possibility of disruption (or even potential cancellation) of this autumn exam series opportunity at a late stage.
Appeals against unfair results
For schools who think that the results are unfair for any particular subject they can appeal and put forward the evidence for why they think this is the case. In the Ofqual guidance it is clear that any appeals need to be made by the school.
What to do if you think that your child’s result is unfair?
- Firstly, it is important that you understand how the grades were decided. Click here for the, ‘Student guide for those receiving qualifications this summer‘ which explains the process. On the last page of this letter there is a summary of how we at Admiral Lord Nelson School generated the Centre Assessment Grades.
- On Thursday, if you have any have any queries about your child’s grades or think that an error has been made please contact our Exams Manager, Mrs Seonaid Oswald either by phoning the school or by emailing on [email protected]. Mrs Oswald will be compiling all queries and ensuring they are passed to the best person to answer them for you.
I do hope that you find this information is helpful to you as you prepare yourselves for GCSE Results day on Thursday. As I said at the start of this letter, we will keep you updated when OFQUAL and the Department for Education release further information and guidance.
We are looking forward to seeing your sons and daughters again on Thursday and we very much hope that this will be a time of celebration of all of the hard work that they have done over the past 5 years with us here at Admiral Lord Nelson School.
Please remember that unfortunately we cannot allow parents on site on Thursday and that we will have strict protocols in place to ensure that your children receive their GCSE results and support from the staff at school (if required) and can celebrate together in an appropriately social-distanced manner.
The final page of this letter is the method that we used to determine the Centre Assessed Grades that were submitted to the exam boards.
How did we determine the Centre Assessment Grades?
In line with the guidance from Ofqual we had to ensure that the grades we submitted were a fair reflection based upon the evidence we had gathered over the time students have been studying the course. We also had to ensure that the grades we submitted were in line with how we have performed as a centre in the past. For each student studying a course we had to come up with a grade and within the grade we had to rank all the students in order from strongest to weakest.
How did we do this?
- To start the process we ensured all teachers had read the Ofqual guidance and we then laid out a plan and timescale for all teachers and Curriculum Directors to follow.
- The first step we took was to ask all class teachers to propose the most likely grade that a student would achieve based upon all the evidence that they had.
- Within each subject, teams of staff then moderated their judgements and discussed the evidence that they had so that we could ensure that all staff in a subject were being consistent. At this stage some of grades were moderated both up and down based upon discussions of the evidence.
- These grades were then compiled together and compared with how similar students have performed in the past both nationally and from our centre. Similar students refers to students of a similar ability with the same starting point. Again at this stage some grades were moderated both up and down.
- Staff teams within each subject then looked at the grades again and discussed these so that any final changes could be made and agreed. These were then scrutinised by school leaders together with Curriculum Directors.
- When the Curriculum Directors working with the school leaders were sure that the set of results they had were a fair set of results for the students in the current year 11, we then fixed these and after this point the grades did not change.
- Individual class teachers were then asked to rank students within their classes if they had the same grade, so if there were four students in a class with a proposed grade 5 as their centre assessment grade, the class teacher ranked these 1 to 4 based upon the evidence that they had.
- The Heads of Department and Curriculum Directors then took all of these ranks and together with the teachers suggestions they looked at the evidence and ranked the students across the subject.
- This ranking was then discussed by the subject team and any final changes made.
- The proposed Centre Assessment Grades and the ranks were then entered onto the exam board system and were checked a further two times to ensure that the grades and ranks were accurate before being finally submitted to the exam boards.