Whole Education is a dynamic network of schools and partners who are united in their belief that all children and young people deserve a fully rounded education. They want more than just great exam results for students and pupils; they want to develop the knowledge, skills and qualities that will help them to thrive in life, learning and work. Our schools and trusts are committed to sharing with and learning from each other as a way to achieve this.
We recently conducted a survey with over 40 secondary school headteachers and senior leaders about the Ofqual Consultation and we’re now able to share the findings of that survey with you.
Main principles of the response:
- In 2021, if there is a trade-off necessary between grades to inform student progression and grades to ensure comparability, progression should dominate. We mostly agree that qualification grades indicate the standard at which a person knows, understands and can apply the content. The grade identifies the standard. The qualification identifies the content.
- In 2021 appropriate student progression must be enabled with reasonable adjustments for missed learning at the next stage.
- We believe, therefore, that the underlying principles of an assessment and examination system are that it should be appropriate, fair and valid. In the future our system has the potential to be fairer.
- We broadly agree that “students need grades to continue to the next stage of their education or training, or into employment”. We agree that “people who use qualifications… need to be able to rely on the grades”. The primary purpose of qualification grades is to ensure that this progression is appropriate, credible and fair. With the caveat that qualifications reflect only part of what a young person can do, and that there could be a better way to capture fully their knowledge, their skills and their qualities.
- The term “centre assessed grade” (CAG) is preferable to “teacher assessed grade” (TAG) because the grade is the outcome of a process involving a range of colleagues and procedures within the centre, rather than a simple reflection of one teacher’s assessment. In many cases, students have more than one teacher per subject.
- Given the disruption to learning over the last year, it is unreasonable to expect qualification grades in 2021 to be comparable to those in 2020 or any other year.
- We advocate a high trust/high accountability model. The emphasis should be on trusting teachers to make appropriate assessments, with rigorous quality assurance procedures. More resources should be spent ensuring the internal and external QA procedures are robust than in developing a wide range of assessment materials.
- We must resist the temptation to judge the efficacy of teacher/centre assessment and moderation on the outcomes of 2021, as opposed to high-stakes terminal exams. If we were to use such a system, it would need appropriate design and testing.
- We support the growing consensus that high stakes terminal examinations are not necessarily the most effective way to assess standards and award grades, and that GCSEs and A levels (in the current form) may not be fit for purpose in the future. We disagree, therefore, with Simon Lebus that it may not be “important for all stakeholders that we return to normal practice for assessment as soon as we can”
We can do much better.