The International Baccalaureate has said it will offer a dual route for its grading process this year, with schools in some countries taking exams while others award grades through teacher assessment.
Following a January survey of 3,000 schools in more than 152 countries, the IB said it was working with schools to "determine which of the two pathways is best for their region: written examinations, where they can be administered safely, or an alternative route using a combination of internal assessment coursework and teacher-predicted grades, where they can’t".
Its May 2021 Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme will therefore be awarded through exams in some countries and teacher assessment in others.
No decisions have been made for individual countries. And UK IB schools will not learn of their assessment route for certain until 22 February at the earliest, when Ofqual and the Department for Education unveil their finalised plans for this year's GCSEs and A levels.
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Schools in other countries will learn of which assessment route is being taken "in the coming days".
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The IB has already trialled its "dual route" approach in the southern hemisphere for its November 2020 assessments. Its use for May is a recognition of the different stages that the Covid pandemic has reached in different parts of the world.
The IB said that schools could also consider deferring to the November 2021 or May 2022 session with no additional cost, or withdrawing from the IB May session with a full refund.
It said that roughly 71 per cent of its schools (catering for 61 per cent of IB students) had indicated that they would be able to administer the exams as of today – but it would not supply that figure for the UK.
The IB said that during grade awarding there would be built-in generosity when setting grade boundaries for each route "that reflects the disruption experienced in teaching and learning around the world and considering how grades are likely to be distributed in other large-scale qualifications".
It added that it would ensure that each "individual qualification is an accurate reflection of achievement and that they can be fairly compared with one another". "Unlike some other systems, the IB's extensive use of coursework allows for this," it added in a statement.
The IB is also working with government regulators and schools across the world to determine the best approach for the local context, considering the impact of Covid-19 on students.
"With regard to the United Kingdom, last week the IB submitted a response to a DfE/Ofqual consultation. We expect the DfE/Ofqual response to the consultation to be published on 22 February," the IB said.
"Once we have reviewed the outcomes of the consultation, the IB will write promptly to all UK schools (and those in the Crown Dependencies) confirming whether IB examinations will be held in the UK."
The IB Heads’ Council said: "As school administrators, we are keenly aware of the extraordinary challenges our teachers and students face due to the Covid-19 crisis – we also understand that circumstances vary a great deal between regions.
"We believe that IB’s approach to the May 2021 examination session – in which schools that can sit the exams will do so – is the fairest possible solution.
"We also believe the non-exam route for allocating results to students who are unable to take exams is fair, clear and will allow for grades to be distributed that will reflect their achievements and abilities. This dual-route system was used in the November 2020 series, which we found to be equitable and transparent."
An IB source said: "We know only too well that students and schools are very keen to get clarity on what is going to happen in the summer.
"We understand their frustration. However, we are not permitted to inform them of our plans before the outcome of the Ofqual consultation."