GCSEs 2021: Warning over taking teachers for granted

OCR says it will 'prioritise teachers' mental health' as there little opportunity for 'recharging of batteries' in this year's grading process

Catherine Lough

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Teachers' resilience during the pandemic cannot be taken for granted, a leading exam board has said.

Jill Duffy, chief executive of OCR, was speaking at a Westminster Education Forum conference on the impact of the coronavirus on the exams system on Wednesday when she said that teachers had been "remarkably resilient" during the grading process of 2020, but that this could not be taken for granted.

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"One lesson we can draw from last summer is that teachers proved remarkably resilient," she said.

"They proved that they can adapt quickly to change and that they are prepared to go the extra mile to do right by their students. But we can’t take this for granted – the last year has been relentless and exams, or the lack of them, has only been a small part of the burden."

Ms Duffy said that OCR would prioritise the mental health of teachers and students in its approach to awarding grades this year and that the processes put in place would need to be as flexible as possible.

"This may include making use of technology so that students can  continue their studies and take assessments at their school or college, or at home," she said.

Ms Duffy added that the timelines for this summer left "little opportunity to reflect and none for the recharging of batteries", adding that schools and colleges would need to submit their grades to boards by 18 June notwithstanding other duties. 

Once final grades were issued on 10 and 12 August, students would be able to appeal, "and some teachers will be needed to respond to these appeals at a time when they might have looked forward to a moment’s respite", she said.

"Meanwhile, it seems quite possible that teachers will be asked to provide schooling over the summer to help students catch up with lost learning," she added.

Ms Duffy said that the issue of teacher workload meant OCR would need to provide schools with "clear, accessible and succinct advice and support" and this would need to be done "swiftly".

She said OCR was working "flat out" to provide schools with this, as well as working closely with the Joint Council for Qualifications to ensure advice was consistent across the different exam boards. 

But she added that "we know from last year that simply issuing timelines and instructions is not enough" and that there was a need for transparency between school, colleges and boards, as when the Commons Education Select Committee reviewed the lessons learned from last year, "it was critical of what it argued was a lack of transparency about what was being proposed".

Ms Duffy said that, as the final published plans from Ofqual and the Department for Education's consultation on 2021 grading has stated, teachers will be asked to judge how a student is performing in their subject based on evidence generated from during the course, rather than being asked to estimate what grade a student would have gone on to achieve had their education not been disrupted by Covid-19.

And she said that for a minority of students, they will have lost so much learning this year that they may not be awarded a grade at all.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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