Quality Assuring GCSE, AS and A Level centre-assessed judgement grades in 2020 – a checklist

27th May 2020

As the window for submitting centre-assessed grades to examination boards runs from 1 – 12 June, do not rush to submit. Give yourself time for a thorough check before submitting, perhaps on 11 June. 

Ensure you do not fail to follow the rules in the JCQ Guidance on malpractice for awarding in summer 2020. Failing to follow due procedures in the centre assessed grade process includes: 

  • A Head of Centre fails to submit the required declaration when approving and submitting their Centre Assessment Grades and rank orders
  • A failure to submit Centre Assessment Grades and rank orders which honestly and fairly represent the grades that students would have been most likely to achieve if they had sat their assessments as planned. This might include situations in which centre staff have been unreasonably pressured into making changes to their Centre Assessment Grades and rank order judgements or making such changes themselves without reasonable grounds
  • Centre Assessment Grades and/or rank orders being released to learners (or their parents/carers) before the issue of results

Exam boards will use a statistical model to standardise grades across centres in each subject. This model will combine a range of evidence including: 

  • Expected grade distributions at national level
  • Results in previous years at individual centre level 
  • The prior attainment profile of students at centre level 


Our checklist for schools and colleges 


Use Connect Interactive to check trends in each subject’s recorded data across the 2019-20 monitoring grade-points and check back to compare final subject predictions in 2019 with actual results at subject and, where practical, teacher level.


How certain are you that all centre-assessed grades in each subject honestly and fairly represent the grades that students would have been most likely to achieve if they had sat their assessments in 2020?


The Ofqual Guidance for Summer 2020 grades for GCSE, AS and A level, Extended Project Qualification and Advanced Extension Award in maths (22 May) states that ‘Each set of centre assessment grades for a subject must be signed off by at least 2 teachers in that subject, one of whom should be the head of department/subject lead (or where if there is only one teacher or only one is available, by the Head of Centre)’. Check that this has happened and can be evidenced.


Ofqual have stated that ‘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’.

  • At AS and A Level (AS) standardisation will consider historical data from 2017, 2018 and 2019
  • At GCSE standardisation will consider historical 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.

Carefully check each subject’s percentages of centre-assessed grades with their historic record (as per above). Check Value-Added in Connect Interactive so that any annual differences in the prior attainment of each cohort are considered when you are checking. If the centre-assessed grades are significantly out-of-kilter with recent results in the same subject, check if this can be justified by the prior attainment of students in your subject cohort

Ofsted have stated on 22 May that standardisation ‘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)’.


Once you are as certain as you can be that each subject’s centre-assessed grades have your approval, check the ranking within each grade in a conversation with each Head of Department. Ofqual has stated that the 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’. Therefore, it is towards the bottom of each grade’s rank that checking ought to be most careful as student who is low in each grade’s Rank Order is much more vulnerable to having their grade lowered during the external standardisation processes.


Be especially careful when considering grades that may have a critical impact on a student’s future, for example 3/4 at GCSE (or D/C in Wales & Northern Ireland) or at A Level in terms of UCAS. As soon as exams were cancelled, Gavin Williamson announced ‘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’.


Once you are as content as possible with each subject’s rank order within each grade, we would recommend some overall checks. Ofqual suggest ‘centres could use data to identify whether there may be any indications of systematic under- or over-prediction for different groups of students’. Use the compare and filter tools in Connect Interactive to swiftly enable you to compare the raw results and value-added progress of significant student groups in your centre.


Check the overall centre-assessed grade totals for your school or college. On 15 May, Cath Jadhav’s Ofqual blog made it clear that ‘standardisation will operate at subject level, not at centre level’. However, how your overall table of centre-assessed grades compares at A Level with results 2017-19 or at GCSE 2018-19 is still a recommendation. Do the percentages of centre-assessed grades at A*, A*-A, A*-B etc feel right in comparison?


Then check how these grades compare in terms of value-added progress (as above). Your cohorts will not have had the same prior attainment across these years. Does the value-added represented by your centre-assessed grades in 2020 feel right in comparison?


Use the Student Performance Overview in Connect Interactive for a final, thorough check of each student’s set of grades. Do they seem both ‘fair’ and ‘most likely’? 


Finally, please remember your centre-assessed grades and rank orders must not be released to learners (or their parents/carers) before Results Days. 


On Tuesday 2nd June, we’re running a webinar on how to quality assure your assessment grades. To sign-up, and to view listings for all Alps webinars this summer, click the button below:

View listings and register for Alps summer webinars

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