Cancellation of Summer GCSE and A Level Examinations
3 April Update:
Further to my message last week, today Ofqual, the exams regulator, have published new guidance on how your GCSE and A level grades will be decided.
We have been asked to produce two pieces of information for each of your qualifications:
The first is the grade, based on our professional expertise and experience, that we believe you would have achieved if teaching, learning and exams had gone ahead as planned.
The second is the order of all the students who we have given a particular grade to, in each subject, based on our judgement of your performance. The best performing person at that grade will be top. The lowest performing person at the grade will be bottom. This is required to allow a fair fine tuning of grades nationally to ensure grades awarded this year are similar to those awarded in previous years.
When deciding the grade you were most likely to achieve we will take into account a range of supporting evidence. This includes how you have done in tests and assessments, how you have done in non-exam assessment (NEA) whether this was finished or not, how you did in your mock exams, how well you do in class and homework and our experience of how well similar students would usually progress during the teaching and revision time you have missed. Where applicable we will also take into account exceptional circumstances which would have led to you having special consideration in traditional examinations.
The information that we need to submit to exam boards is confidential. Please do not ask your teachers or anyone else at our school for information about the grades or the order we will be submitting. We are not allowed to share this.
As stated last week, we will not expect or consider, work that has been produced since the school closure when developing our grade and order. There is no need to do any more work to prove yourselves. We know you. We know the qualifications. We know what you are capable of achieving. Throughout your GCSEs and A Levels we assess you regularly, we standardise this and track this, consequently we already have the information we need to make accurate professional judgements. Our teachers are experts in assessment, experts in the qualification they teach and experts in making ethical, informed judgements based on the myriad of information we gather.
Our guidance remains that if you feel there are elements of the course you would like to continue with, particularly if it would be beneficial in preparation for A Level, Apprenticeships or University, you can still work on this on a voluntary basis. Over the Easter holidays we will be publishing details of our new curriculum offer for Year 11 and Year 13 which will focus on preparing you for the next steps in your education and ensuring you are not disadvantaged next year by the early finish to your studies this year.
The results day has not yet been confirmed. However, we know it will be no later than the published dates for A levels (13 August) and GCSEs (20 August) and more than likely a little before. We will update when we have more clarity. We are also awaiting more information about the process of taking your exams in either the Autumn or in Summer 2021 should you want to do so. If you do take the exams, then both grades will stand. Ofqual are currently considering arrangements for an effective appeals process should you not be happy with the grade you are awarded. They will be consulting on their proposals shortly and we will provide further information to you when it becomes available.
Finally, and most crucially, the GCSE and A level grades you’ve earned this summer will be indistinguishable from those awarded any other year. They will carry equal weight with employers and universities. The exam boards, Ofqual and all the staff at Denmark Road are committed to ensuring this process is fair and the grades you receive this summer will be a true representation of the grade you would have achieved in more normal times.
Have a wonderful and restful Easter break. Enjoy your time with your family and stay in touch on our group chat rooms. Stay home. Be safe. We can’t wait to celebrate with you all on results day.
28 March Update:
I trust you are all keeping well and have managed to enjoy some of the sunshine we have had this week. It is great to see so many of you engaging on the group chats, staying in touch with each other, motivating each other and trying out new things.
We understand the concerns you will have following the announcement that exams will not take place in the summer. As you know from previous communications, we are still awaiting precise guidance from the government and examination boards as to how we, as teachers, will contribute to your calculated grade. Ofqual has confirmed that this information will be published next week. As soon as we know, you will know.
We also appreciate that some of you feel you should currently be continuing with work and assessments, that you feel there is a need to prove yourselves and what you are capable of. There is no need: We know you. We know the qualifications. We know what you are capable of achieving. Throughout your GCSEs and A Levels we assess you regularly, we standardise this and track this, consequently we already have the information we need to make accurate professional judgements. Our teachers are experts in assessment, experts in the qualification they teach and experts in making ethical, informed judgements based on the myriad of information we gather.
Our guidance for all students in Years 11 and 13 across all subjects remains as follows: If you feel there are elements of the course you would like to continue with, particularly if it would be beneficial in preparation for A Level, Apprenticeships or University, you can still work on this on a voluntary basis.
We recognise the hard work you have put into your studies and we are extremely proud of what you have achieved. At the end next week we will be providing further information on how we will be supporting you in your preparation for the next stage of your education. Over the next term we will be providing opportunities to explore and develop new knowledge, techniques and skills which will help prepare you for those next steps while also supporting your well-being.
23 March Update:
The government has now provided some outline guidance following the cancellation of all GCSE and A level exams this summer.
In summary, there will not be any exams this summer. Our students will be awarded a ‘calculated’ grade which will be based on a number of factors. These will be formal grades and will be indistinguishable from grades awarded in other years. They will be published by the end of July. Students who are unhappy with their grades will have the opportunity to appeal by sitting an exam as soon as possible after schools reopen – but not before the start of the next academic year.
We know our students. We know the qualifications. We support the government’s decision to involve our teacher’s recommendation in awarding grades. This is a system similar to the one used for unwell students during exam season. We believe it will provide a fair and credible way of assessing qualifications during these challenging times.
Please see our frequently asked questions below:
Why have exams been cancelled?
We are aware that the cancellation of all exams is a massive shock. We feel desperately sorry that our students, who have been preparing with such dedication, will no longer have the opportunity to take their final exams. However, from Monday 23 March 2020 our school, and those across the country, will be closed. This closure is likely to last at least several months. The cancellation of exams will allow us to shift our focus to our new role supporting our vulnerable students and the children of key workers during these extraordinary times.
How will grades be decided?
The details of this are still being finalised. In the days ahead the various exam boards, Ofqual and teachers’ representatives will be working together to ensure a system as fair as possible to all students is put into place.
We do know that our teachers will be asked to contribute “the grade the student was most likely to achieve” if they had sat their exams as usual in the summer. At Denmark Road, our teachers have exceptional subject knowledge and know the GCSE and A level courses inside out. We know our students. We know how well they have been progressing in their courses. We have considerable experience providing accurate projected grades based on professional judgement incorporating regular non-exam assessments, mock exams, class performance and coursework. The grades we provide to exam boards will be triangulated against all internal data and assessment information we hold. We await detailed guidance on exactly how Ofqual want us to finalise this grade but we have the utmost confidence our experienced staff will contribute accurate professional predictions.
It is important to note that our ‘predicted grade’ will not be the grade awarded. Our grade will only be part of the evidence used by Ofqual to provide the final ‘calculated grade’. This is likely to incorporate prior attainment data amongst other factors. Reassuringly the calculation is also likely to reflect the exceptional progress our students make at Denmark Road High School. Please be advised that as the exact nature of how predictions will be formed is unclear, we will not be entering in discussions about them with students or parents.
The final ‘calculated grade’ will be awarded in late July.
What if I do not agree with the calculated grade awarded?
Further details will be provided in due course. We are aware that students will be given the opportunity to sit an exam as soon as reasonably possible after schools reopen. We believe this will be in early in the autumn term. There will also be a chance to sit their planned exams in the summer of 2021 if wanted.
Will Universities and Sixth Forms accept these grades?
We know our students. We know how capable they are. We know that with our continued support they will thrive in our sixth form. Consequently we have confirmed to all our Year 11 students that they will be guaranteed a place at Denmark Road Sixth Form next year irrespective of the calculated grades they are awarded.
The grades awarded will have the same status as GCSE and A level qualifications in any other year. Therefore, offers from universities will be honoured with the grades awarded. In addition, universities have already confirmed their willingness to be flexible to ensure student progress to higher education. Particularly if students are taking an exam option at the beginning of next academic year. We recommend you follow the UCAS twitter page @ucas_online for more information.
What happens with coursework?
We are waiting to hear from exam boards how any non-exam assessment or coursework, whether completed or not, will be used to support the calculated grade.
Do I need to continue my studies and online lessons?
No. As there are no longer examinations there is no longer a need to continue your current studies. In the majority of subjects the curriculum has been completed and students were beginning revision and exam preparation tasks. If students would like to complete any parts of the curriculum that have not been covered then this will be provided via independent study opportunities from their subject teachers. Our focus as a school now shifts to providing for the children of critical workers and our vulnerable students.
Universities and Sixth Forms will understand and minimise the impact of these missing months. Denmark Road students staying with us for Sixth Form will benefit from our knowledge of their GCSE course coverage allowing us to provide them with bespoke support sessions to cover missing knowledge and skills of any GCSE subject they continue at A level.
We strongly recommend our Year 11 and Year 13 students take this opportunity to read non-fiction books. We will also be providing wellbeing support for the duration of school closure. We will contact students and parents with our revised offer this week.
When will I know more?
We expect more guidance from Ofqual in the coming days and weeks. We will continue to update you as soon as we receive more information.
If you have further questions please email Tom Mannion, Assistant Headteacher – Progress & Well-being on firstname.lastname@example.org