ASCL responds to JCQ guidance on A levels and GCSEs

26/03/2021
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on guidance from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) on the grading of A levels and GCSEs in lieu of exams this summer.
 
Commenting on guidance from the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) on the grading of A levels and GCSEs in lieu of exams this summer, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
 
“It is frustrating that schools and colleges have had to wait for detailed guidance on awarding grades for nearly three months since the Education Secretary cancelled exams and promised that contingency arrangements just needed some fine-tuning. However, the guidance itself is helpful and comprehensive, and probably represents the fairest way of assessing students this summer in difficult circumstances. It gives teachers flexibility to use a range of evidence in assessing students, enabling them to take into account lost learning as a result of the pandemic, and it sets out quality assurance processes to ensure that grades are awarded fairly and consistently across the country.
 
“This will, however, mean a huge amount of additional work for school and college leaders and for teaching staff, at a time when they are already under enormous pressure managing Covid safety processes, and supporting pupils after the lockdown. They have 12 weeks in which to set up, deliver and quality assure assessments for every student in every subject in order to hit the deadline for submitting grades on 18 June. We know that the government, Ofqual and exam boards are all aware that this is extremely demanding, but we would once again reiterate the importance of ensuring that all possible assistance is given to schools and colleges over the coming weeks, and that they are not saddled with any more responsibilities.
 
“We are pleased that the guidance makes it clear that the range of evidence used by teachers is not negotiable by students, and that repeated attempts by students to influence grade decisions by applying pressure to staff may constitute malpractice. The vast majority of parents and students are very supportive of their schools and colleges, and would not dream of behaving in this way. But we need the small minority who may be inclined to over-assert their viewpoint to respect the fact that teachers and centres will be making professional evidence-based judgements in a way which is designed to ensure all students are treated fairly and equally.”