GCSEs 2021: Other schools could mark 'external' tests

External test papers proposed for GCSE and A level could be marked by exam boards or other schools, says Ofqual adviser

GCSEs and A levels 2021: The proposed external tests could be marked by exam boards or other schools, says Ofqual adviser

External tests being proposed for this year’s exam candidates could be “short, sharp, limited papers”  to make grades more valid – and could be marked by teachers in other schools.

That’s according to Dr Tina Isaacs, honorary associate professor in educational assessment at UCL Institute of Education, who is also a member of Ofqual’s Standards Advisory Group.

Speaking in a personal capacity on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme today, she was asked about plans being worked on by the Department for Education and Ofqual for the use of external papers to assist teachers in submitting grades this summer following the cancellation of exams due to the pandemic. 


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Dr Isaacs said: “It’s not clear at the moment exactly how it would work. There are myriad ways of putting it in place but essentially what Ofqual and the government are consulting on is whether to introduce some short, sharp, limited papers in order to make the results this year more valid and more reliable.

GCSEs and A levels 2021: Proposals for external tests

"You’ll notice I’m saying 'more'. It’s very important that we recognise that these are incredibly difficult times.

“So the papers are all the same. Who marks them?” she was asked, to which she replied: “Well, again, it’s not clear from the letters [education secretary Gavin Williamson's letter to Ofqual and Ofqual chief regulator Simon Lebus' letter inresponse] but if they would need to be externally marked, either the exam boards could do the marking or you could set up arrangements where some schools will mark other schools' papers.

“So exams are not cancelled?” she was asked.

Dr Isaacs said: “I don’t think that’s fair to say. I mean this would be different. I’m calling them tests rather than exams. They would shorter, sharper. They would probably look different from exams and these are out for consultation, so the decision has yet to be made.”

However, London headteacher Serge Cefai, also appearing on the programme, said the papers should not be marked by teachers.

He said “These are exams in all but name so why cancel them in the first place? I don’t understand.

"If they’re looking for parity [for students who have suffered different learning loss across regions], we need the exams to be reinstated, not marked by teachers.

"What are the exam boards doing? They’ve got the markers [and] I assume they’ve got the papers, and all they should have been doing is thinking about grade boundaries and special consideration for children that have been more affected than others.

“What you’ve got now is absolute confusion and I feel so sorry for – never mind [for] the teaching profession – but for parents  who are trying to keep their teenagers motivated and off their phones.”

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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