Message on Summer 2020 from Alps

23rd March 2020

We are writing this to say that we are with you during these extraordinarily challenging times.

Although the Alps Office is closed and our staff are working remotely, our Educational team and Customer Support team are available to be contacted by phone or email if you would like our advice or support. You can find all the latest from us in the ‘Latest’ section of our website, including a recent report on the impact of cancelled 2020 AS exams in Wales.

On 21 April how and when GCSE and A Level examination grades will be awarded in 2020 in England and Wales was clarified further when Ofqual published their final update.

Centre-assessed judgement grades must be submitted to the Exam Boards. The window to submit grades runs from 1 – 12 June. These grades must not be shared with students and their parents/carers.

To make sure that grades are fair between schools and colleges, exam boards will put all centre assessment grades through a process of standardisation using a model developed with Ofqual. The aim is to provide a ‘calculated’ grade to be awarded to each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible.

On 15 May Ofqual released further detail about the standardisation process in Cath Jadhav’s blog:

  • Standardisation will operate at subject level, not at centre level. For example, the standardisation for GCSE English language will not be affected by the standardisation of GCSE history. This means centres might see different levels of adjustment in different subjects.
  • Within each subject, boards will consider each centre individually, using the centre’s historical results and the prior attainment of the current students, to judge whether its centre assessment grades are more generous or severe than predicted.
    • For AS/A Levels, standardisation will consider historical data from 2017, 2018 and 2019.
    • For GCSEs, standardisation will consider data from 2018 and 2019, except where there is only a single year of data from the 9-1 reformed specifications.
    • If a centre’s centre-assessed grades are judged to be more generous than expected in a subject, some, or all, of the grades will be adjusted before being issued (although the rank order won’t change).
    • Standardisation will also make sure that, at a national level, grade distributions are broadly in line with other years.

Using data based on national results in 2015 and 2016, Ofqual argue that for ‘the vast majority of schools and colleges any year-on-year variation in results for a given subject is quite small. In 2015 and 2016, 90% of centres were classed as having stable outcomes.’

On 22 May, Ofqual published the outcomes of their consultation on the awarding of GCSEs and A Levels in 2020. It contains two important points about the standardisation process:

  1. The standardisation process will place more weight on a centre’s historical performance in a subject than the submitted centre assessment grades where that will result in students getting the grades that they would most likely have achieved had they been able to complete their assessments in summer 2020
  2. That because of the risk of unfairness, the model will not seek to reflect any trends in improvement or deterioration in a centre’s outcomes in a subject over previous years (a centre’s trajectory)

Results will be released on the published results days as originally planned. These are 13 August for A level and 20 August for GCSE.

There will be an appeals process of sorts. However, Ofqual have decided ‘not to provide for appeals in respect of the operation or outcome of the statistical standardisation model’. Students can’t ‘appeal against their school or college’s centre assessment grades and position in the rank order’.

Students who feel that grades awarded this summer do not reflect their ability will also have an opportunity to take exams in the autumn series or in summer 2021. Ofqual launched a consultation on the Autumn Series of exams on 22 May and the consultation closes on 8 June.

 

A Levels, AS and GCSEs

Between 1st and 12th June, the following must be submitted to the Exam Boards:

  • A centre assessment grade for every student in each of their subjects: that is, the grade they would be most likely to have achieved if they had sat their exams and completed any non-exam assessment. These teacher assessed grades should be based on the overall qualification grade each learner is likely to achieve at the end of their course of study in each subject, based on their performance on a range of assessments, including performance in mock exams and non-exam assessments, and on their overall commitment to their studies and ability in each subject. Schools and colleges have been told that they must not share their centre assessment grades with students, parents or carers, under any circumstances, until after results are issued. At Alps we are using the term ‘judgement grade’ for this teacher-assessed grade
  • The rank order of students within each grade for each subject
  • A declaration from the Head of Centre making the submission

Exam boards will put all centre assessed judgement grades through a process of standardisation and the standardisation model will draw on the following sources of evidence:

  • Historical outcomes for each centre
  • The prior attainment (Key Stage 2 or GCSE) of this year’s students and those in previous years within each centre
  • The expected national grade distribution for the subject given the prior attainment of the national entry

 

Advice from Alps – Teacher-assessed grades

1. Assume that the standardisation processes outlined above are likely to lead to lower finally awarded grades than submitted teacher-assessed judgement grades.

2. When teachers are assessing judgement grades give them clear guidance about the range of assessments in your school or college that they must consider. In Wales and Northern Ireland, and in the minority of English schools that still use AS exams, the AS results ought to be taken into account.

3. If possible, set up remote departmental/faculty moderation.

4. Consider grades from a student perspective, for example at GCSE in English and Mathematics when deciding to submit grades 3 and 4. Gavin Williamson has said ‘My priority now is to ensure no young person faces a barrier when it comes to moving onto the next stage of their lives – whether that’s further or higher education, an apprenticeship or a job’.

5. If you have a sixth form, consider the grades students require to study Level 3 qualifications in your setting and whether it would have been most likely that a student would have achieved these.

6. If you have a sixth form, consider UCAS offers and whether it was most likely that a student would have achieved these.

7. If you have Connect Interactive, you can also use the Monitoring Accuracy tools to see how accurately subjects and teachers predicted final grades in 2019, when they were most accurate and to what extent individual student ‘predictions’ have varied during 2019-20.

8. If you have Connect Interactive, upload grade-points so that you are able to analyse value-added progress by school/college, by subject, by student group and student. Crucially, when you receive the awarded grades ‘before the end of July’ you will then be easily able to assess the impact of the external moderation processes overall, by subject etc.

9. Alps value added analysis will demonstrate grade discrepancies, accuracy evidence and trends through time and will be useful evidence if you need to appeal against finally awarded grades.

 

Alps Advice – Establishing a fair rank order while working remotely

1. Rank ordering a subject involves allocating 1 to the student most certain to achieve each judgement grade down to the least certain / least secure student on that grade.

2. Achieving a fair Rank Order in a subject is clearly far more complex at KS4, especially for subjects like English, Maths and Double Award Science, or Post-16 if you have subjects taken by a very large number of candidates, for example in a Sixth Form College.

3. It is important to try to get the rank order right because of the external standardisation of grades that will happen after you have submitted your grades. Ofqual has stated that this standardisation process ‘will not change the rank order of students within each centre’. However, if grading judgements in some schools and colleges appear to be more severe or generous than others, ‘exam boards will adjust the grades of some or all of those students upwards or downwards accordingly’.

4. For each qualification within each subject establish a lead co-ordinator. That may be the HoD, but if you consider subjects like English or Science it may make more sense to have distributed leadership across the various qualifications for a subject.

5. Once your judgement grades have been securely set ask each co-ordinator to establish a draft rank order for each judgement grade, for example Grade 4 or Grade C.

6. This rank order will be the subject of comprehensive ‘remote’ moderation and is intended to enable informed discussion. It might be based on one or more of the following:

  • At A Level the draft rank order within each judgement grade might be based on the AS Grade and UMS achieved in 2019 in Wales, Northern Ireland, internationally and in the minority of English schools still using AS exams in 2019
  • In subjects that still have assessed coursework, for example, A Level History, the draft rank order within each grade might be based on the marks achieved in that coursework. Similarly, apart from English schools, if students have taken a module/unit and received grades and marks these could be used to establish the draft rank order
  • In England, the draft rank order for GCSE and A Level in each subject might be based on the results in the most representative Mock Exam taken by the students
  • In subjects that have tiers of entry, the draft rank order within a GCSE grade such as 4 or C might be created by first ranking the students entered for Higher above those entered for Foundation as the entries may demonstrate that you were more confident about the candidates entered for Higher
  • If you used Fine Grades (whether 1,2,3 or +,=,- or a,b,c) when asking for teacher assessments you might also create the draft rank order within each grade by first ranking students with the most secure fine grade within each grade highest etc

7. Having shared the draft rank order with the teaching team for that qualification, the Co-ordinator should calendar an online remote moderation meeting.

8. Before the meeting each teacher should be asked to consider which of the students they a student who is low in each grade’s Rank Order is much more vulnerable to having their grade lowered during this standardisation process During the meeting the Co-ordinator should chair and take the team through the draft rank for each judgement grade ensuring that each member of the teaching team has ample opportunity to make a case about any student that they believe should be moved within each judgement grade’s rank order.

9. A student who is low in each grade’s Rank Order is much more vulnerable to having their grade lowered during the external standardisation processes. For obvious reasons be especially careful when considering students towards the bottom of each grade’s draft rank order.

10. After the meeting the co-ordinator should share the edited rank order with the teaching team to be able to confirm the edited rank order as finalised.

11. Once that process is complete the finalised qualification rank order should be shared with the Head of Department (in the few instances where (s)he was not involved) and then submitted to the Data Manager.

 

Applied General / Vocational qualifications

There is a very wide range of different vocational and technical qualifications in which students were expecting to gain qualifications this summer.

On 10 April, Ofqual confirmed that most vocational and technical qualifications and Functional Skills qualifications will be awarded ‘Calculated’ results. This will include BTEC Nationals, Cambridge Technicals and also UAL Diplomas, the International Baccalaureate, Cambridge Pre-U and Core Maths.

So, some qualifications may need to be based on adapted assessments undertaken within social distancing rules and a few may need re-scheduling when ‘normal assessments can take place again’.

On 24 April Ofqual issued guidance relating to their proposals in the consultation they launched the same day.

Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, Ofqual, said: ‘The complexity of the landscape for vocational and technical qualifications means a single approach is not appropriate.’ She has also said that ‘it is vitally important that learners taking vocational or technical qualifications are not prevented from progressing in their studies or careers because of the unprecedented challenges this summer’.

Ofqual published the outcomes of their consultation into the ‘assessment and grading of vocational, technical and other general qualifications’ on 22 May.

Awarding Organisations (AOs) have flexibility in determining the most appropriate and fair model of awarding grades in 2020. Ofqual requires AOs to determine how best to deliver results to learners. This means that centres need to take care in ensuring they act on the relevant messages from the AOs they use once these AOs have provided clarification.

The qualifications fall into 3 categories:

1. Qualifications used for progression to further or higher education

  • Learners should receive calculated results for these qualifications.
  • Calculated results may be based on the outcomes of any completed assignments or modules, and/or centre judgements (for the whole qualification, or for uncompleted modules or units) of the result each learner would most likely have achieved had they been able to complete their assessments in summer 2020.
  • AOs should set out the most suitable approach to calculation for their qualifications. They should put in place appropriate quality assurance and an overall check on qualification level outcomes to satisfy themselves these are aligned with expectations.

2. Qualifications signalling occupational competence

  • It would not be suitable for these learners to receive a calculated result because it would not be clear they possessed the skills required for the job, which could have health and safety – or other professional – implications.
  • Ofqual propose that the starting point for these qualifications is for AOs to adapt the assessment or delivery model so that adapted assessments can be completed under the current public health restrictions.

3. Qualifications serving a mixed purpose (There are a significant number of VTQs which serve a number of purposes).

  • AOs will need to consider whether their qualification:
    • More closely aligns with the primary purpose of supporting progression to further or higher education (in which case the starting point would be a calculated result, with an adapted assessment potentially being made available where this is not possible)
    • More closely aligns with signifying occupational competence (in which case the starting point should be the provision of adapted assessments

Calculated results will draw on a range of evidence, depending on the structure of the qualification:

1. AOs will set out the most suitable approach to calculation for their qualifications.

2. Depending on the structure of the qualification, centres may be asked to provide a centre assessment grade for the whole qualification, or for uncompleted modules or units.

3. There might be some instances where centres are asked to provide a rank order of learners.

There will be an appeals process. Where learners do not feel that their result properly reflects their ability, Ofqual are also proposing arrangements for further assessment opportunities to be available as soon as is possible in the autumn term.

 

Advice from Alps – Centre-assessed judgement grades

1. Our advice is that centres must be watchful for all correspondence from each of their Awarding Organisations on their approach to calculating results in each qualification.

2. Our advice is that teachers should use all the evidence they have to create most likely grades for uncompleted modules or units as these may well be required.

3. Our advice is that teachers should also use all the evidence they have to create most likely overall grades for each student that can be compared with the finally awarded grades.

4. If required by an AO create a rank order either within uncompleted units or for the overall qualification, depending on further clarification by each AO.

5. If you have Connect Interactive, your centre-assessed judgement grade-point should be uploaded so that you are able to analyse value-added progress by school/college, by subject, by student group and student based on teacher-calculated grades.

6. On Results Day you will then be easily able to assess the impact of the external standardisation processes.

7. Alps value-added analysis will demonstrate grade discrepancies, accuracy evidence and trends through time and will be useful evidence if you need to appeal against finally awarded ‘calculated’ grades.

Overall Advice

As there will be no Performance Tables based on 2020 outcomes, we want to assure you that we will work with you to ensure that you are able to set young people aspirational minimum expected grades and assess value-added progress against national data to enable further school or college improvement in the years ahead. Alps will enable schools and colleges to continue their quality assurance cycle uninterrupted, despite the lack of Performance Tables / Government data.

To support you fully during this time, we are releasing new guidance on how to get the most from Connect Interactive. Read the latest guide by clicking the link below:

 

Read our guide on how to use connect interactive to assist with grading

Need more information?

If you would like any further information, please contact one of our expert advisers.

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