Exam grades will be fair, says Bristol Metropolitan Academy head

May 10 2021
Exam grades will be fair, says Bristol Metropolitan Academy head

SCHOOLS have started to assess the work of this year's A-level and GCSE students.

After traditional exams were cancelled because of the disruption caused by COVID-19, teachers are being asked to award grades this year.

Perhaps more than ever before, the future of leavers is in the hands of those who have had to steer them through their school careers.

But Bristol Metropolitan Academy principal Cameron Shaw says it is a responsibility – and a lot of extra work – that teachers are more than willing to shoulder.

The Fishponds secondary school has been holding GCSE assessments during the first two weeks of May, with the 200 pupils in Year 11 working under strictly-controlled conditions in classrooms.

The assessments will not just copy regular GCSE exams: something Mr Shaw says neither the school, regulator Ofqual or the government want.

With most of this year's candidates out of the classroom for six months of the last academic year, each school has to assess children on what they have actually been taught, taking into account that there has not been a "level playing field" for all pupils during months of remote learning.

Mr Shaw said: "The reality is that some students will have covered less content because they will have had several terms last year when they haven't physically been in school."

Having had warning since of January that there would be no exams, Mr Shaw believes this year's system will be fairer on pupils than last year's "emergency process", when they were judged on work they had already done and "had no opportunity to do anything about their grades" after schools closed. Grades were then worked out using a national "mutant algorithm", which adjusted them using factors that had nothing to do with individual candidates' achievement.

Assessments vary between subjects – including sketches for art and practicals for PE – but will be the same for every candidate studying each subject.

Mr Shaw says it will not be a case of "cherry-picking" each child's best work but submitting work which is representative of their abilities.

Teachers will then mark assessments and they will be moderated by comparing standards with other schools in the Cabot Learning Federation, such as Bristol Brunel Academy.

Schools have until mid-June to submit grades to the regulator, along with their assessment policies.

Ofqual will then ask for samples of work from a selection of named candidates across the grade range in each subject, to ensure candidates at different schools across the country have been treated fairly.

Mr Shaw said that this year's system is an opportunity for teachers to show they can assess children's work and reflect their abilities accurately and fairly.

He said: "We have wanted to be given more ownership and for our judgement to be trusted as professionals. I'm not against exams or formal assessments – what we're saying is it's not the only way."

Much thought has gone into ensuring that the system will give results that are comparable to other years and will not be unfair either to this year's candidates or those coming before or after.

Mr Shaw said the overall message to parents about the process was: "You should feel reassured that your child's grade is fair and accurate."

Results days will be August 10 for A-levels and August 12 for GCSEs.