GCSE & A-level Grading 2021 | Epsom College
  • Academic

GCSE & A-level Grading 2021

Last week, the government published further guidance on how schools will determine final grades for this year’s GCSE and A-levels.

The film above from our Deputy Head (Academic) Mr Richard Alton, explains in detail:

  • our approach
  • how grades will be awarded
  • what the timetable looks like for the next few weeks

In essence, the government guidance has asked that schools assess the standard at which pupils are performing at the end of the course, based on evidence in a fair and open way.

GCSE and A-level courses will be completed in the next week or so and then we will begin to consolidate and revise towards a set of internal assessments after the Easter holidays.

The exact format of these assessments are still to be finalised but they will likely resemble internal examination sessions that pupils have completed during the course.

These internal assessments will be different from the usual external exams that are sat in the summer – they will be assessments with, what might be called, a safety net in place.

Firstly, we have complete control of the content of these assessments.

We have been fortunate that the technology has allowed us to teach remotely through the lockdown periods and in most subjects virtually the complete specification has been covered.

There will be parts, however, that may not have been covered in the same way as they would have in school. For example, we have not been able to do practical work – in the sciences, for example – in the usual way. Therefore, we will not look to assess your knowledge of practical skills in the same way as may have happened in externally set examinations.

Secondly, in addition to the summer assessments, we will look at other assessed work you have completed, such as previous trial exams and other major pieces of assessed work. Generally, however these will have a smaller influence on your final grade because the government has asked us to use assessments taken towards the end of the course to provide the best evidence to generate your grades.

How will this look over the next few months?

We have three more weeks this term to consolidate and revise the course content.

Then, as planned, we will have a week or so of internal assessments on your return in April to begin the process of determining your final grade.

Usually, after Easter, we hold a week of final mock examinations to focus revision and give one final trial exam before the external examinations in May and June.

This year, we are keeping these assessments in place. But now, rather than trial examinations that are practice examinations for the real thing and have no bearing on your final grade, these assessments will be an opportunity for your teachers to begin to assess the standard you are performing at as you reach the end of your GCSE or A-level courses.

We will then have three more weeks in the classroom to revise the subject content as we work towards a final set of internal assessments beginning in mid-May which will complete your GCSE or A-level course.

So how will this evidence come together to determine your final grade?

In some subjects there will be quite a high weighting on the assessments sat in the summer term, but these won’t make up all the evidence we use.

We will look back at assessment points over the course of the two years and take into account your performance on block tests and previous internal examinations and any other significant work you have produced.

In other subjects, particularly those with NEAs (or coursework as it was called), the NEA will make up a substantial part of your final grade as it would normally, together with prior performance data mentioned earlier.

These are the safety nets in place which means that, although the summer assessments are important, your final grade does not wholly depend on your performance on a particular day in June as is normally the case.

The details of the exact makeup or weightings of all of the available evidence will vary from subject to subject and is being determined over the next few weeks and months by Heads of Department once we have more information from examination boards later this month. Please bear with us and don’t ask your teachers for this information at the moment as we haven’t yet finalised it and we will communicate in due course which evidence is being used to determine your final grade in each subject.

We are confident the system that is being developed is fair, objective and gives every Epsom student the opportunity to achieve the best grade they can – despite some of the negative reporting you may have come across in the press and on social media.

All schools are following the same guidance, are subject to the same quality assurance processes by the examination boards and the majority of schools we have liaised with, both independent and academy chains, are following very similar processes to us.

Crucially judgments used to determine your grade need to be evidence-based and not subjective judgements by a teacher.

Equally, they need to be made at the end of the course when you have completed the full course content and are at your most skilled in the subject.

Therefore there has to be objective assessments next term to allow you to perform at your best and for us to generate evidence of you doing so.

So, there is no need to feel anxious, continue to follow the guidance of your teachers revising the subject content and preparing for the summer assessments.

Please be patient as we finalise the details of these summer assessments; more information will come to you over the next few weeks, but rest assured we will do all we can to ensure you have the opportunity to achieve the best grade you can.