What to expect for GCSE and A Levels in 2021
- Teachers will assess students performance, based on what they have been taught, either in class or remotely, to determine their grade.
- Teachers' judgements should be based on a broad range of evidence from throughout the course. NEAs (Non-Exam Assessments) will be marked by teachers and contribute to the overall grade.
- Exam boards will supply a package of support materials, such as question papers, mark schemes and guidance, example materials.
- Private candidates, e.g. those being home-schooled, will be assessed in a similar way to other students, by a recognised Exam Centre using a range of evidence.
- Grades will be submitted to Exam Boards on 18th June. AS and A Level results day is 10th August. GCSE results day is 12th August.
What to focus on in the next few months
There are two main incentives for students working towards their final exam grades.
- One is to achieve the best grade possible, which accurately reflects their ability in that subject.
- The other, probably more important, is to make sure that there is sufficient knowledge and understanding of the subject to allow progress to the next level of education or work. Heads of Centres will have to confirm that students have been taught sufficient content to enable this, though there will not be a set requirement from Ofqual/DoE.
So, although grades must be submitted by a deadline of 18th June, given the amount of teaching and learning time lost this year, it makes sense for students to continue to study those subjects needed for their next level, right through to the end of the school year in July.
Teachers have been asked to determine grades as late in the year as is practicable and must have evidence to support this grade.
So, although grade evidence can be from throughout the course - for most subjects from the last two academic years, Year 10 and Year 11 - for many students, there will be a raft of mini-tests and assessments from now until the middle of June.
Schools are being provided with a package of support materials by the Exam Boards.
This package will include exam questions, both past and new; mark schemes and guidance; grading guidance, advice on content coverage and topic selection. These materials do not have to be used, but teachers will likely use them as part of the range of evidence used to determine student's final grades.
Centres must have internal Quality Assurance arrangements in place, including consideration of the results profile of previous years. (This is where the infamous algorithm came unstuck in 2020). Exam Boards will check Centres internal Quality Assurance arrangements and collaborate to provide consistency.
Students will be able to appeal grades.
The first check would be to ensure there is no administrative error – if this is the case, the school or centre can enter a revised grade along with an explanation. If the centre does not think a mistake has been made, the appeal will be taken up by the Exam Board, who will make a grade decision based on the evidence the centre used to determine the grade. Students will also be given an opportunity to sit an exam in Autumn 2021, should they wish to improve their teacher assessed grade.
What if you are a private candidate?
Private candidates will need to work with an Exam Centre (which may be a school, college or an independently run exam centre) to provide evidence of attainment that mirrors that provided by schools. This could be pre-existing evidence, such as work marked by a tutor or an educational organisation – these would need to be authenticated and also assessments carried out by the Exam Centre. These assessments might include using the Exam Board's assessment materials based on topics covered by the student and centres will have extra guidance to help determine the grades awarded.
The private candidate should be aware of the assessment methods that have been used to determine their grade.
The deadline for Exam centres to make entries on behalf of Private candidates has been extended to 26th April. The government recently announced that Schools and colleges are to receive £200 for every entry from private GCSE and A-level candidates they deal with this summer "to meet costs associated with the additional demands of assessment for private candidates this year."
How you can support your child
- Please encourage them to keep working consistently. Grades are now being awarded on the basis of continual assessment, so there is no leaving it to the last minute to cram like some do for exams.
- Communicate with the school. Ensure there are clear guidelines from the school or academic departments about when and how assessment is to be conducted and how the grade for any particular subject is to be determined.
- Consider using a qualified teacher to provide one-to-one tuition to boost confidence and performance in specific subjects. Talk to us if you are looking for tutors experienced in specific exam boards too.