GCSEs 2021: Heads condemn 'scandalous' grade check plan

Teachers criticise Ofqual plans to give schools 48 hours to produce GCSE and A-level grade evidence

Catherine Lough

GCSEs and A levels 2021: Headteachers have criticised 'scandalous' Ofqual grade check plan

A headteachers' leader has said that it is "scandalous" for Ofqual to "waste teachers' time" by requiring them to produce work as evidence for students' exam grades that in many cases will not be looked at.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, has strongly criticised an announcement made by Ofqual through a blog, which set out what schools are expected to provide to exam boards after submitting GCSE and A-level grades.

The regulator's plans have also been condemned on social media by heads and teachers, who have described demands that schools provide evidence of students' GCSE and A-level work to exam boards within 48 hours as a "kick in the teeth".

GCSEs 2021: How Ofqual will police schools' grading

More on this year's GCSEs and A levels:

The regulator has said schools and colleges would "at least" need to submit evidence of students' grades from one A-level subject for at least five students, as well as evidence from two GCSE subjects, looking at the work of at least five students each.

GCSEs and A levels 2021: Ofqual evidence demands 'waste teachers' time'

The new blog from Ofqual has said boards would tell schools and colleges what work was needed from which students on 21 June, after results had been submitted three days' beforehand.  They would then have just 48 hours to submit the evidence requested.

Mr Barton said: "There are ways and means of issuing guidance of this importance to schools and colleges, and doing it via the back door in a blog is absolutely not acceptable. This should have been issued as formal guidance using the normal and proper channels.

“Giving schools and colleges just 48 hours to turn around quality-assurance evidence is a big ask in itself.

“However, Ofqual’s revelation that they will only be checking a sample of the submissions means the hard work of many schools and colleges in rapidly getting evidence together will effectively be left sitting on the Ofqual doormat, gathering dust.

“Ofqual must not collect evidence from schools and colleges that it has no intention of looking at, and needs to recognise the amount of work they are asking teachers to do and the level of pressure they are already under, facing the unprecedented task of grading their own students.

"The idea that they would waste teachers’ time in this way is quite frankly scandalous."

School leaders and teachers have also reacted with anger to the announcement, with some describing the process laid out as an "onerous, bureaucratic waste of time".

Posting on Twitter, Jonny Uttley, chief executive of the Education Alliance, a multi-academy trust in Yorkshire, said the plans were a "kick in the teeth" and that much of the work laid out for schools in the blog was "pointless".

He highlighted that the blog told schools to submit lengthy grading policies, but that the regulator would only read a summary of the policy before phoning schools to check for further details.


Others pointed out that schools will have just 48 hours to submit evidence when Ofqual and the Joint Council for Qualifications took months to provide schools with an alternative assessment model after the cancellation of GCSEs and A levels in January.

Head of geography Mark Enser described the plan as "one of the stupidest things" he had read this year, adding that quality assurance would be unworkable given that the guidance on assessing students was so vague. 

Secondary headteacher Carly Waterman said it had always been known boards would sample schools' evidence but added: "Using a blog to put this out is their way of saying... why are you upset, it was in the guidance all along, didn’t you read it? Thing is, nowhere did it say all schools would be sampled."

She also added that while schools knew the grades had to be evidence-based, schools might be using evidence from before the guidance was produced as a basis for grades, which they may not have retained.

Ofqual has been contacted for comment.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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