Unpicking the Ofqual Consultation Document

Six days on from the release of the long-awaited Ofqual consultation, the document remains at the centre of much debate and discussion. At 46 pages, it’s a daunting read which raises as many questions as it answers - but as a first look into the Government’s plans for exam classes, there are certainly some useful conclusions we can draw.

Let’s start by summarising each section:

What the grades will mean: This year’s grades are not a prediction. Rather, grades should justifiably reflect the skills, knowledge and understanding students have demonstrated across as much of the curriculum as they have covered - and they should be indistinguishable from grades in previous years.

When teachers should assess the standard at which students are performing: Students need to cover as much as they can in order to progress to the next step of their education, so the proposal is that assessment should happen as late as possible. However, the final grade should include a breadth of evidence, including NEA where relevant.

How teachers should determine the grades they submit to exam boards: Whether teachers use exam board papers, their own papers, or other evidence, in all cases the assessment of a student should be objective and consistent, aligned with exam criteria, and should give every student the opportunity to demonstrate their full ability - while still taking into account and making allowances for missed curriculum.

The assessment period: Once again, the consultation suggests assessments need to happen as late as possible, as close together as possible, to avoid leaks - but there is no clear rationale yet for how the latter can be avoided with papers taken on different days.

The conditions under which students should be assessed: Ideally assessment would happen in school, but if that’s not possible the consultation suggests it can happen elsewhere, including students’ homes - provided exam conditions are enforced and both the student and supervisor sign a declaration afterwards confirming this.

Supporting teachers: Exam boards need to provide guidance to teachers to help deliver objective and consistent assessment, including managing extenuating circumstances, and they should check school leaders understand what is expected of them in terms of processes.

Internal quality assurance: Exam boards will provide schools guidance to help them implement a procedure for consistent assessment and standardisation - schools can work independently or together, but must follow a robust process at every level.

External quality assurance: The onus is on schools to put an objective, robust system in place, backed up by exam guidelines - but exam boards will Quality Assure each approach and verify whether guidelines are being followed consistently and correctly, intervening if they are not.

How students could appeal their grade: Headteachers will likely be concerned by the suggestion that appeals should go to schools first, and are primarily concerned with having someone as unbiased as possible confirm that assessments followed the correct process and showed good academic judgement. Exam boards only enter the process if students and parents remain unhappy with the outcome - and they may charge for appeals. The burden here definitely lies with schools.

Impact summary

The consultation ends with an impact summary which considers the wider implications for schools, students and exam boards in terms of both cost and workload. It repeatedly returns to the idea that the impacts listed are instead of and not as well the processes that would ordinarily happen during exam season. This is particularly concerning for school leaders since it doesn’t seem to acknowledge the notion that replacing one process for another is in itself time consuming.