Pupils could sit ‘mini’ exams marked by teachers

Learners may have to take the tests at home if schools are not able to fully reopen in time, according to reports

Amy Gibbons

Online exams, schools coronavirus

Pupils could sit “mini exams” marked by their teachers in place of cancelled GCSEs and A levels this summer, media reports suggest.

And learners may have to take the tests at home if schools do not get the go-ahead to fully reopen in time, according to the Sunday Times.

The news comes as, this morning, exam watchdog Ofqual’s interim chief regulator said people must deal with the “reality” that there are “perverse incentives” for teachers assigning grades in place of exams.

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The newspaper is reporting that Ofqual is expected to announce its plans for alternative arrangements this week, following the cancellation of GCSEs and A levels for the second year running.

Today’s report suggests that exam boards will put together “mini” exams for pupils to sit in schools – likely late in the summer term but on no single date – when it is hoped Covid rates will have declined.

These tests will be marked by teachers, the newspaper reports, with a sample moderated by exam boards.

It is also suggested that teachers will set some internal assessments in certain subjects, including an option for children to submit a selection of work from the past two years.

The Sunday Times said Ofqual declined to comment but confirmed its consultation proposals would be published this week.

Meanwhile, speaking to Sky News this morning, Ofqual’s interim chief regulator, Simon Lebus, said “there is a plan B” for this year’s exams.

“My officials and the department spent quite a lot of time last year working that out in detail,” he said.

“But I think [one has] got to recognise it’s a sort of framework in a sense, because plan B as it’s implemented in January is not going to be the same as plan B if it’s implemented because exams are cancelled in May.

“But I think the other thing to recognise is that, at the end of the day, people need to feel that the results are fair and we need to have a proper opportunity to consult with parents, with students, with teachers, with schools, with school organisations.”

Asked how he can make sure whatever replaces the exams is fair and doesn’t discriminate against pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, Mr Lebus said: “You would be idle to pretend that’s a straightforward challenge. Clearly, any sort of arrangements do need to take account of the fact we’ve got a very wide range of learning experiences that have to be assessed and evaluated.

“I think there’s going to be a big challenge in terms of making sure that the teacher-assessed grades – the methods we use – encompass that range of learning but, at the same time, I think they have to reflect actual achievement and actual learning. Some people have had an absolutely appalling experience and lost masses of learning – others have virtually been unimpacted.”

And asked if he had any ideas of how to make a fair assessment system, Mr Lebus said: “It’s already been made clear that the system is going to be based on teacher assessment.

“The question then is how you make sure that teacher assessment is relatively consistent across the school network. You’ve got to deal with the reality that there are perverse incentives. There was quite a big grade inflation last year, there’s lots of potential for an even bigger grade inflation this year.”

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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