Family & Education

Still a testing time for pupils

Pupils may not have faced the ordeal of public exams this summer but they will have gone through various hoops to get their grades


Students wearing mask for protect corona virus or covid-19 and doing exam in classroom with stress.

Since the pandemic has put paid to GCSE and A-level exams for a second year, results will again be based on schools’ own evaluation of their pupils.

But there ought to be no repeat of the algorithm scandal of last year. The exam regular Ofqual had used a system to modify the grades awarded by teachers by comparing the institutions’ results in previous years. It provoked howls of protests of unfairness, leading to the algorithm being unceremoniously dumped and the original grades restored.

Grades have to be submitted by June 21 and schools will be expected to produce the evidence on which they are based if asked. As a quality check, Ofqual will require every school or college to show samples of work in at least one A-level subject and two at GCSE, of which one is likely to be maths or English.

Work from at least five pupils in each of the subjects will be requested. If the regulators are unhappy, they will carry out further scrutiny.

Anticipating the cancellation of exams, JFS set regular assessments during the autumn term, with mock exams for year-11s in December. “This approach has provided us with extensive data on which to base our decisions around grades for all students,” headteacher Rachel Fink explained.

Students will also have been given two further assessments to complete. “Most have taken place in classrooms and are no longer than one hour in duration with students given guidance as to the topics to be examined. This is in line with Joint Council for Qualifications guidance and will offer additional evidence when staff mark, moderate and award grades.”

The additional workload on staff has been “immense,” especially given the size of JFS, she said, and teachers received extra training to prepare. Before grades are sent to the exam board, a team of senior staff will have checked them along with the supporting evidence.

She added that she had been “immensely proud of the maturity with which our students have adapted to the uncertainties they have continued to face regarding their education and their ability to focus on their studies following a return from lockdown”.

At Kantor King Solomon High School, students were completing assessments during this half-term “that will contribute to a portfolio of work for each student for each qualification they are sitting,” said headteacher Hannele Reece.

“For most subjects, these exam-style assessments will form most of their teacher-assessed grades, although some non-exam assessments will be used where appropriate, for example 
speaking exams or coursework.”

The school, she said, was “acutely aware that many students have had difficult experiences over the last 12 months, and we want to support our students as best we can whilst ensuring academic rigour is maintained.

“We believe that by carrying out shorter in-class assessments our students are getting the chance to a off all the hard work they have put in without disadvantaging students who have had adverse experiences during the pandemic.”

At Manchester’s King David High School, GCSE and A-level students have recently sat formal exams set by the school. These will be the “primary measure” for grades, which will be no lower than what was achieved in the exam, said chairman of governors Joshua Rowe.

“However, where teachers feel that the exam results do not reflect the true capabilities and achievements of the pupil, they are entitled to consider other evidence — coursework, assessments, classwork, homework etc — to enable them to award a more accurate grade.”

Yavneh College would take into account two recent and three previously completed assessments that, said executive head Spencer Lewis, would “give us the correct evidence as to the grade at which each pupils is working so that we can assign them what they deserve”.

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