School exam scores in England: how the system will work this year | Exams

Tens of thousands of school leavers are expected to know their grades after this summer’s exams were canceled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic.

Here is how the system will work and the context for a new system.

How will the grades be assessed this year?

Teachers have been given extended powers to decide on A level, GCSE and professional grades in England this year, after the summer exams were abolished by the government.

Instead of exams, teachers were asked to rate over 1.2 million students “on what they learned” using whatever evidence they chose.

Schools and colleges across England had until June 18 to submit candidate scores to examination boards after using a range of evidence including mock exams, lectures and classroom assessments at the help from questions asked by committees.

In Scotland, students have taken classroom assessments this year, and many are aware of their provisional grades – but confirmations will come on August 10 ahead of the calls. Teacher-assessed scoring also took place in Wales and Northern Ireland.

What is the rationale for this year’s system?

With the loss of weeks of face-to-face teaching and uncertainty over when to retake, the UK government said earlier this year that exams in England could not be run fairly.

The approach is an attempt to overcome the stark disparities in the loss of learning among students, caused by school closings and disruption amid the Covid pandemic.

What happened last year?

An unprecedented fiasco occurred after an algorithm was used by exams regulator Ofqual to determine A-level and GCSE scores in England following the cancellation of exams.

The failure of the approach became evident when A-level grades were announced, with teachers in England having 39% of their assessments downgraded.

After a storm of complaints, the government instead used school ratings – which reversed downgrades and saw 38% of entries awarded A * or Aces.

What are the concerns for this year?

There is concern that the achievement gap will widen if some private schools end up giving inflated grades. A think tank, the Education Policy Institute (EPI), warned of “a significant risk” that schools take different approaches, resulting in large numbers of attractive students.

There are also concerns about grade inflation, which puts pressure on the university admissions system, and universities and higher education venues in general.

Meanwhile, unions have expressed concern that students will be overloaded with classroom tests as schools seek to justify teacher scores.

How will the results be announced?

Teachers were to sit down with each student and explain the evidence they considered before submitting their assessments.

But students won’t know their final grades until the publication date, which will be August 10 for A levels and August 12 for GCSEs. The results of BTecs and professional and technical qualifications will be announced in the same week.


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