GCSEs 2021: Teacher judgements won't be second-guessed

Grade changes should be based on human decisions not algorithms, says education secretary

Catherine Lough

Changes to teacher-assessed grades for this year's GCSEs and A levels should be based on human decisions, not algorithms says education secretary Gavin Williamson

The process of setting this year's GCSE and A-level grades will not involve any "second-guessing" of teachers' judgements, education secretary Gavin Williamson has said.

In a letter to exams regulator Ofqual's chief moderator, Simon Lebus, published this morning, Mr Williamson also restates his call for there to be no use of algorithms in this year's grading. 


In full: Gavin Williamson's exams letter to Ofqual

GCSEs 2021: Teacher grades may use external papers

News: Grades will be less reliable, Ofqual warns

Related: In full – Ofqual’s letter on summer grades


"Any changes to grades as a result of the external quality assurance process should be the exception: the process will not involve second-guessing the judgement of teachers but confirming that the process and evidence used to award a grade is reasonable," the letter says.

GCSEs and A levels 2021: No algorithm to award grades

"Changes should only be made if those grades cannot be justified, rather than as a result of marginal differences of opinion. Any changes should be based on human decisions, not by an automatic process or algorithm." 

Ofqual used a moderating algorithm for the 2020 exam grades but performed a U-turn at the last minute, awarding unmoderated teacher-assessed grades instead.

Mr Williamson said today: "We have agreed that we will not use an algorithm to set or automatically standardise anyone’s grade. Schools and colleges should undertake quality assurance of their teachers’ assessments and provide reassurance to the exam boards.

"We should provide training and guidance to support that, and there should also be external checks in place to support fairness and consistency between different institutions and to avoid schools and colleges proposing anomalous grades."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The education secretary’s letter sets out broad and sensible parameters for assessing GCSEs and A levels following the cancellation of exams but, as ever, the devil will be in the detail of how this is turned into reality.

“We are relieved to see confirmation that no algorithm will be applied this year following last summer’s grading debacle," he added.

“One of the key issues, however, will be precisely how any system of externally set assessment would work and how this can be done in a way that ensures fairness for students who have been heavily disrupted by the pandemic.

“We look forward to engaging in the forthcoming consultation and we will do everything possible to support this process.”

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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