GCSE and A-level grade calculations by schools will be checked using a rank order of students, according to new Ofqual guidance published this morning on how grades will be awarded this year following the cancellation of exams due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In a message sent to GCSE and A-level students this morning, the exams regulator said it will collect two pieces of information on students to award a calculated grade: the mark teachers believe they would have achieved "if teaching, learning and exams had happened as planned", and a rank order of students at the school by performance for each grade, which will be used to "standardise judgements".
Coronavirus: Teacher assessments will be used for exams
GCSE resits: Ofqual to provide 'calculated' grades
The letter acknowledged that the past weeks had been "unsettling" for students and reassured candidates they would not be disadvantaged in comparison with other cohorts.
"Your school or college will consider a range of things like your classwork and homework; your results in assignments and any mock exams; any non-exam assessment or coursework you might have done; and your general progress during your course," the letter said.
"This information will allow us, with exam boards, to standardise grades across schools and colleges, to make sure that, as far as possible, results are fair and that students are not advantaged or disadvantaged because their schools or colleges are more generous or harsh than others when making those judgements."
The letter said schools did not need to set additional exams or work for pupils to complete, and added that grades sent to the exam board should not be shared with pupils.
Pupils will be placed in a rank order for each grade for a subject in their school. This will mean that if a school awarded a generous proportion of grade 6 in History, for example – a legacy high grade B – it would be possible for boards to moderate on the basis of the rank order of grade 6 at a centre.
The rank order would include the pupils who were most secure in their attainment of grade 6 down to those who were least secure in attaining this grade.
The ranking system was immediately criticised this morning by the NEU teaching union, which said it would make many teachers "uncomfortable".
Joint general secretary Mary Bousted said: “In any qualification system, but particularly one created in these circumstances, it helps with consistency and fairness to have moderation and oversight from the regulator.
"However, many teachers will be uncomfortable with the concept of rank-ordering students, especially if it amounts to a rationing of grades based on previous performance data.
"Moderation does not have to mean rank-ordering students nor rationing of success and in an ideal use of teacher judgements during awarding, this would be possible."