Centre Assessed Grade Approach
GCSE and A level results are now just a few weeks away. You may well have seen articles in the press talking about the reductions that have been imposed on the ‘centre-assessed grades’ that have been submitted to the exam boards following the over-optimism and enthusiasm of teachers. With that reporting in mind, I wanted to take a moment to take you through the process we followed at Denmark Road. A process our staff are rightly proud of and one that recognises the significant and fantastic work that has been put in by our students during the two years of their qualification prior to lockdown. We have also produced a short student-focused video to explain this process.
As a professional body we recognised what was required from the outset was a process which ensured the achievements and hard work your child has produced is recognised fairly and equally across the cohort. We recognised that this can be difficult when you like the person, know the face, know their ambitions and know the very best work they have done. Consequently we established our process to take away the potential for bias or sentiment.
As with all examination years, students are essentially competing against each other nationally. A set proportion of grades will be awarded at each level – essentially the same % of 9s, 8s, 7s, or A*s, As, Bs and so on each year. This removes grade inflation and ensures that the qualifications are not devalued by being of an equal level every year. Ofqual’s standardisation process for centre-assessed grades will ensure that the results from each school this year are roughly in line with the results from previous years. You will not see any significant improvements in any school’s results this summer. This is a significant advantage for us. Our results are consistent and extremely high. They also build on prior attainment to recognise the progress that our students make during their time with us. Last year we were ranked 91st nationally out of 6327 secondary providers for progress. This gave us a high bar in which to award the very best centre-assessed grades.
As stated in our communication to our exam students on 3rd April: “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.” This has underpinned our approach throughout. Here is how we met Ofqual’s request to “make a fair and objective judgement of the grade you believe a student would have achieved had they sat their exams this year”.
We created our Centre-Assessed Grades over a five week process:
Week 1: Teachers met in their subject teams. The aim of this week was to agree which evidence teachers would allow when creating the grades. They focussed on choosing evidence that was consistent for all students in their subject. This included mock exams, assessments and tests, 9th lesson assessments, comparable homework marks, work completed in NEAs and moderated performances. This evidence had all been marked consistently and professionally throughout the course by our experts in the qualification. The chosen evidence for each subject was then agreed with the Curriculum Director for each subject area and eventually signed off by the Senior Leadership Team link for that subject.
Week 2: In this week the teacher’s decided how much weight to give to each piece of evidence in creating an “Objective Relative Mark”. For example in a A level qualification they might decide to award Y13 9th Lesson Assessments 35% weighting, Y13 Mock exams, 40% weighting, Y12 9th Lesson Assessments 10% and Y12 Mock exams 15%. In GCSEs this might be end of term tests or assessments instead of 9th lesson assessments. The % achieved in each piece of evidence was then multiplied by the weighting awarded which then created the ‘objective relative mark’. There are some worked examples of this part of the process at the end of this letter. Each subject was able to choose which weighting to apply to each piece of evidence they had agreed to use based on what gave the most representative example of performance in their subject. This then went through the same sign-off process by the curriculum director and senior leader.
Week 3: Subject teachers now had a list of all students in their subject and their ‘objective relative mark’ based on the evidence and weighting agreed. This was then ordered to create a ranking. The objective relative marks often created clustering around certain scores which supported the decision making on where the borderline would be between different grades. Subject areas then awarded certain grades A*, A, B etc or 9, 8, 7 against certain ranges of the objective relative mark. These were awarded approximately inline with past subject and school performance with more flexibility for subjects with smaller numbers that by the nature of small cohorts show more variance in results over different academic years. This was then signed off by the subject leader, the curriculum director and the SLT link.
Week 4: During this week a whole-centre moderation process took place by senior leaders at the school. They reviewed each step of the process, the grade boundaries used and ensured the subject and school performance in the centre-assessed grades was reflective of past performance. Where subjects had shown improvements in grades from previous years the evidence was reviewed to show that the clustering around certain objective relative marks showed that each student around that mark deserved that higher grade.
Week 5: The final stage in the process was administrative. Each exam board has a different type of portal for the centre assessed grades and rankings to be submitted. These were checked, uploaded and checked again. The last step was the centre declarations assuring we had conducted this process correctly.
As you can see this was a thorough process. We have complete confidence in the grades and rankings we submitted to the exam boards. We will not find out if, or how many, any of these grades will be changed by the Ofqual standardisation model until the same time as you when results are published. However based on our process we do not anticipate the significant changes that have been reported in the press. At the moment our centre-assessed grades are confidential and we are not allowed to share them. However, on results days, there will be a form for your child to complete if they wish to see the Centre Assessed Grade we submitted. If they do want to see these, they will be published to their school email account seven days after their respective results day.
Worked example of the creation of an objective relative mark.
Agreed Evidence and Weightings (Week 1 and Week 2 of the process)
Y11 Mock 40%
Y10 Mock 20%
End of Topic Tests 30%
Achieved 68% in Y11 mock.
Achieved 70% in Y10 mock.
Achieved 74% average across end of topic tests
Achieved 65% average across homework’s
Y11 mock score 68*40 = 2720
Y10 mock score 70*20 = 1400
Tests score 74*30 = 2220
Homework 65*10 = 650
Objective Relative Mark 6990 / 100 = 69.9
This process is repeated for each student using same evidence for every student. This creates an objective ranked order for all students based on professional and objective marking of teachers in that subject. Where a student missed a specific piece of evidence, for example due to health reasons did not take the Y10 mocks, their performance in other evidence areas was used to peg their performance to another student performing at the same level. They were then given the average of Y10 mock scores of those similar students to complete the missing evidence and create a comparable and fair objective relative mark.