GCSEs 2021: Ofqual 'conscious' of teacher workload

Ofqual justifies plan to collect grading samples from all schools, which has been criticised as 'scandalous' by heads

Catherine Lough

The autumn exam series 2021: What Ofqual's plan means for FE colleges

Exams regulator Ofqual has confirmed that all schools will need to submit samples of student work as evidence for this year's GCSE and A-level grades, saying this should not take "too long" for exams officers to carry out.

In an update to the regulator's guidance for grading, published today, Ofqual confirmed that it would be asking for evidence 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: How Ofqual will police schools' grading

Teacher-assessed grades: Heads condemn 'scandalous' grade check plan

More on this year's GCSEs and A levels:


Last week, after Ofqual's plans to monitor the teacher assessment process were announced, headteachers' leaders condemned the plans as "scandalous".

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that "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".

GCSEs and A levels 2021: Schools 'won't have to be contacted during summer holidays'

He added: “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."

And Sarah Hannafin, senior policy advisor and assessment lead for school leaders' union NAHT, said: “Asking [schools] to provide samples of the evidence they used to award students grades is an appropriate part of the external quality assurance processes to support consistency and fairness in the system this year.

"It is, however, disappointing that this additional expectation has only been communicated to schools and colleges now, weeks after the guidance for this years awarding of grades was published.

"We know that [schools] need to keep the work and records of grading judgements in case a student wishes to appeal their result, so these records must be created and stored for every student in every subject. But the amount of additional work this requires of school staff should not be under-estimated. It's going to be a very busy and high pressure summer for schools leaders and teachers," she added.

Today, interim chief regulator Simon Lebus said the regulator was "conscious" of teacher workload, and that having the samples would avoid the need to contact schools during the summer holidays.

"We have asked all schools and colleges to send in samples of students’ work so that exam boards have evidence from every [school] available as they carry out quality assurance after 18 June," he said.

"It will also avoid the need for exam boards to contact [schools] after the end of term when teachers should be taking a much-needed rest during the summer holidays.

"We are very conscious of teacher workload. The sample is relatively small and should not take too long for exams officers to submit," he added.

In the updated guidance, the regulator says all schools will need to submit evidence because the deadline for submitting grades is "relatively late in the summer term, to maximise the time available for teaching".

"Exam boards, therefore, have very little time between submission and the end of term to request evidence. Collecting a sample of evidence from every [school] means exam boards have evidence in case they need it, and reduces the need for them to contact [schools] after the end of term," it adds.

"It also provides reassurance that any [school]'s evidence will be available to review if necessary."

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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