In recent months guidance has been released by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) to assist schools with reaching and submitting teacher assessed grades (TAGs) this summer for A/AS Levels, GCSEs, Project Qualifications (L1, L2 and EPQ) and Advance Extension Awards (AEA) in maths.
The ‘JCQ guidance on the determination of grades for A/AS Levels and GCSEs Summer 2021’ can be found here, and the Ofqual guidance ‘Information for heads of centre, heads of department and teachers on the submission of teacher assessed grades’ can be found here. Both guidance notes, and supplementary advice and materials produced by individual exam boards, should be reviewed by key members of staff to ensure they are familiar with them.
This note will briefly summarise the key provisions of the guidance released and outline practical steps schools should take during the process.
The JCQ guidance sets out key dates that schools should be aware of. It includes a useful illustrative chart which may be beneficial for staff members to refer to. The following key dates are noted below, however the full list can be found in the guidance:
- Centre Policy to be submitted by 30 April 2021
- TAGs to be entered by centres to the exam board by 18 June 2021
- AS and A-Level results will be released to centres on 9 August 2021
- AS and A-Level results will be released to students on 10 August 2021
- GCSE results will be released to centres on 11 August 2021
- GCSE results will be released to students on 12 August 2021
- appeals window (both priority appeals and non-priority appeals) between 10 August 2021 and the end of October. The window for priority appeals shall end earlier than non-priority appeals, on 7 September 2021.
Centres must have created and submitted a centre policy to JCQ for approval. The deadline for submitting this was Friday 30 April 2021. It is important it is compatible with the school’s operations and offers consistency as to the approach that will be taken. The JCQ states the policy must:
- outline the roles and responsibilities of individuals in the centre
- detail what training and support will be provided to centre staff involved with the process
- confirm the approach to be taken when determining teacher assessed grades
- detail the internal quality assurance processes that are in place
- detail any provision for private candidates, if applicable.
Evidence to be used
The guidance emphasises that TAGs should be based on a holistic and objective judgement founded on evidence of each student’s performance in the individual subject. The TAGs should reflect the standard at which the student is currently performing, as opposed to their potential performance. Evidence should be drawn from the specific course of study and Ofqual sets out, in their guidance, the recommended types of evidence that could be used.
Students should be told what evidence is going to be used when deciding the TAGs, as this provides the students with the opportunity to raise any genuine and valid concerns. Exceptions can and should be made where the evidence available is affected by exceptional circumstances, or where access arrangements or reasonable adjustments have not been applied (in cases of students with SEND).
Each grade must be signed off by at least two teachers in that subject, one of which should be the head of department or subject lead. This is to ensure there are internal quality assurance checks and that the centre policy has been adhered to. The JCQ guidance emphasises the need for a consistent approach and standard in schools.
Ofqual have updated the guidance they released last year in relation to objective judgements and reissued it to reflect the approach being taken to assessments this year. The guidance highlights the possibility of unconscious beliefs and bias affecting judgements and offers guidance to teachers on how to make objective decisions. It is recommended that all members of staff involved in the TAGs process read the guidance in advance of assessment – the guidance can be found here.
Exam boards shall provide additional materials, such as assessment materials, training, mark schemes and grade descriptors, for optional use by schools. Such materials should be considered alongside other pieces of evidence schools may have. The materials will not be exams but can be used to generate evidence to help determine TAGs.
Schools must ensure that records are kept throughout the process. This should include:
- any evidence that has been used to assess student grades (e.g. student work and mark records)
- any reasonable adjustments or access arrangements which were either in place or not in place when the student carried out the work
- any exceptional circumstances
- any views from students, parents or carers that have been expressed during the process (this may also include any influence or pressure put on teachers in relation to the TAGs).
Whilst the records should be kept until the appeal window closes as a minimum, it is recommended they are retained for a longer period, where possible, in case of any complaints or further investigations.
Keeping clear and complete records will be advantageous to schools in the event the student, or their parent or carer, later appeals the TAG given. Furthermore, the exam boards may carry out targeted and random sampling as an external quality assurance exercise. It would be beneficial for schools to be able to retrieve such records easily and promptly in either event.
Students will have the right to appeal the grade they are given on the grounds set out in the JCQ guidance. The Ofqual consultation on the appeals process closed on 5 May and further guidance on this is expected shortly. We will provide a further note once this has been published. At this stage, schools should look to plan ahead and ensure they have sufficient resources to deal with such appeals late in the summer term.
If schools have any queries regarding the guidance published or this note has raised specific queries/issues for the school, then legal advice should be sought.