ASE take on the Ofqual Covid-19 Assessment plan - the devil will be in the details

The release of Ofqual's proposals for assessment has at least brought some clarity to the question of how GCSE, AS, A level and vocational and technical qualifications will be awarded this summer. While the fact that the fiasco of last year's dalliance with algorithms is not set to be repeated is to be applauded, there are still clearly some important issues that will need to be addressed over the coming months. The Association For Science Education Curriculum Development Director Marianne Cutler took the lead in crafting the ASE's consultation response, and our initial response to the DfE Ofqual decisions is as follows:      

We acknowledge that these decisions are underpinned by the desire to enable teaching to continue for as long as possible for this cohort of students who have missed significant learning time during the last 12 months, to take care that teacher workloads, already strained, are not overburdened and that students are able to receive their rightful grades which enable them to progress with assurance to their next destination.

Whilst we welcome the confidence that government has placed on the teaching profession in making professional judgements on their students’ attainments at GCSE, AS and A level, we maintain our position that centres should not be expected to award grades, only marks.

We welcome, in principle, the guidance and supporting documents from the examination boards collectively, on making objective judgements which avoid unintentional bias, to enable rigorous internal QA mechanisms alongside random and risk based external QA. As a result, considering the learning by the profession during 2020, and their underlying commitment to fairness, we do not expect grade inflation to be a significant issue.

We appreciate that students’ results for this summer cannot, and should not, be compared to other years. We believe this enables the profession to benefit from the flexibility and breathing space to assess students’ performances fairly through a wide range of assessment evidence, only on the content that they have been able to cover.

We recommend that the education community responds to the following consultations on the technical details of the regulatory framework for GCSE, AS and A levels https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-the-general-qualifications-alternative-awarding-framework and for vocational, technical and other qualifications https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/regulatory-arrangements-for-the-awarding-of-vocational-and-technical-and-other-general-qualifications-in-2020-2021. Deadlines for both consultations are 11 March.

Clearly getting this right is of critical importance to the entire education community, and we at the ASE are planning a number of online events in the coming weeks to give our membership the chance to start what will be some vital discussions about how to tackle the inevitable issues that will arise this summer.

"With the current model for assessment of science education in the UK and ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was never going to be a perfect solution to the situation we find ourselves in. Under the circumstances, we believe that the proposed approach provides a better opportunity for students to be awarded fair grades than would be possible either through examination or an algorithm. As ever, the devil will be in the detail. We will continue to monitor the situation and to offer support our community with preparing for this year’s assessments."

Hannah Russell, ASE Chief Executive Officer