GCSEs 2021: 'One-size tests will not fit all' say heads

Heads respond to DFE consultation launched today which asks whether external papers should be used to help teachers award exam grades

exams consultation

Headteachers have warned against a "one-size-fits-all" approach in the use of external papers to help teachers award exam grades this summer.

The papers are one of the measures on which views are being sought in a 68-question consultation into how grades should be awarded which has been launched by the DFE and exam regulator Ofqual this afternoon.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of heads’ union NAHT, said: “The idea of externally set assessments could be of significant benefit. The evidence base which schools and colleges have to assess students is much smaller than last year.


GCSEs 2021: Other schools could mark 'external' tests

No algorithm: Teacher judgements won't be second-guessed 

GCSEs 2021: In full – Ofqual’s letter on summer grades

In full: Gavin Williamson's exams letter to Ofqual

"The current Year 11 and Year 13 have had significant disruption across both years of their courses and they have had a maximum of 15 weeks face to face teaching since March 2020. But it is absolutely vital that teachers are given the flexibility to adapt these assessments to assess students on what they have been taught; a one size test will not fit all."

The consultation, which ends two weeks today, seeks a wide range of views including those from exam candidates themselves as well as teachers and employers.

Heads’ union the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the consultation “sets out sensible options”.

However ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said : “These papers will need to be exceptionally well designed, and this will be a huge challenge given that time is short and nothing like this has been attempted before.

“The proposals avoid the pitfalls of last summer by jettisoning any notion of trying to standardise grades by using an algorithm.

“However, this will mean that the support and guidance provided to schools and colleges, and the quality assurance processes, will need to be clear and logical in order to ensure that there is consistency in how grades are awarded.

“All of this adds up to a huge and complex task for the exam boards and we would be very happy to support them in this vital work.”

The NAHT also says it is concerned about the proposed processes for appeals and says suggestion that initial appeals are made directly to the school or college “is misguided in principle, and logistically very problematic.” It says final assessments must take place as late as possible in the summer term in order to maximise learning time for students.

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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