Peter Shreeve, Assistant District Secretary of the National Education Union, shares this comment on the Government’s arrangements for schools and colleges to determine GCSE, A Level and equivalent grades for 2021. In his own words, Ed
It’s a welcome and almost inevitable decision. Clarity and robust contingency planning have been rightly in high demand since the start of the academic year, when options were highlighted to government by the NEU.
This wait, and therefore anxiety stemming from it, has been exacerbated by two things. Firstly, for GCSEs and A-Levels government has relied solely on end-of-course exams to achieve the grade. Earlier partial assessment would have meant some evidence of student performance ‘in the bank’, as there is for many other qualifications such as BTECs and Cambridge Nationals.
Acted too late
Secondly, government acted too late. Had there been steps taken at the start of the academic year to prepare for the eventuality of no exams, in the way that the NEU and others had been calling for, challenges could have been better resolved.
The least worst option available
Given this late action, in the situation we now find ourselves, the process laid out by government today is likely the least worst option available. It is helpful that government has listened to the consensus amongst the profession.
This process gives students the best chance at grades which are as fair and consistent as possible in the circumstances.
Extra staff may be needed
There are still questions around how the extra work necessary to facilitate grading will be achieved. Substantial time is required for the initial assessments and gradings and then the internal school moderation processes; it may well be that extra staff are needed to release teachers for this important additional work.
The steps laid out by government today rightly require the professional expertise of school and college staff – they are highly trained professionals who know their students well and are best placed to make decisions about their performance.
All will do everything they can to make it work
However, this additional workload cannot be simply absorbed – another aspect of the plans which would have worked more easily had government listened earlier in the academic year and put in place consistent, robust contingency arrangements for evidencing student performance.
Teachers, support staff and the NEU will undoubtedly do everything they can to make it work. But, as grades must be submitted to exam boards by 18th June, there is very little time to get the process up and running.
Details of support needed now
In order to make this grading process as successful as possible, Government must outline how establishments will be supported to ensure staff have the necessary dedicated time and allows them to engage with it properly, so that no student is disadvantaged.
This should also help allay the warning of the Education Policy Institute of potential grade inflation or the “high risk of inconsistencies” between schools.