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Coronavirus: Y11 exam information from Mr Northern
April 14, 2020

Dear Parents and Pupils,

Following recent announcements made by Qualifications Wales (the examination regulators in Wales) and Ofqual (their equivalents in England), we are in a position to provide some clarity as to how the situation will evolve for members of Year 11 for whom we have submitted examination entries for Summer 2020.

However, I must start by explaining the examination context within which Rydal Penrhos operates; in selecting the examination specifications which are best suited to our candidates, we offer a mix of subjects of which some are provided by the WJEC examination board as supervised by Welsh regulators (namely the three Sciences and Additional Mathematics), while the remaining subjects are supplied by the examination boards regulated in England (AQA, Edexcel / Pearson, CIE, OCR and Eduqas). As a result of this, it is to be anticipated that certain minor details will differ as to the way in which the cancellation and replacement of the traditional examinations will be handled under the two regulatory régimes.

As you will already know, no traditional examinations will be taking place in Summer 2020, their being replaced with centre-assessed grades which will be supported by a rank order of candidates within each grade for each subject; these grades will subsequently be standardised by the awarding bodies using a statistical model about which we as yet have few details, prior to the eventual publication of grades. Under normal circumstances, the GCSE results would have been issued on 20th August, but the regulators hope that they may be able to do this a little earlier so as to bring some clarity to the situation. You will be reassured to know that the regulators expect that “the grades awarded to students will have equal status to the grades awarded in other years and should be treated in this way by universities, colleges and employers”.

The concept underlying centre-assessed grades is a familiar one to teachers, as certain elements of examinations have been treated in this way for some years under the labels of coursework and non-examination assessment. Centre assessed grades are defined by the regulators as schools “using their professional experience to make a fair and objective judgement of the grade they believe a student would have achieved, had they sat their exams this year”. The regulators continue by stating that “teachers and Heads of Department will have a good understanding of their students’ performance and how they compare to other students within the subject/department this year, and in previous years”.

In arriving at a candidate’s centre-assessed grade in a particular subject, teachers will make reference to “the full range of evidence” available, and the regulators suggest that this evidence might include the following:

  1. a) any non-examination assessment material that forms part of that subject’s specification;
  2. b) the results of any prep assignments;
  3. c) the results of mock examinations;
  4. d) any other records of pupil performance over the course of study, including for example progress review data, classwork, and indeed participation in performances in subjects such as Music, Drama and Physical Education;
  5. e) previous results at the school in a particular subject. “These will vary according to a number of factors, including prior attainment of the students, but our data shows that for most centres any year-on-year variation in results for a given subject is normally quite small”;
  6. f) “The performance of this year’s students compared to those in previous years”.

For those candidates with access arrangements, the regulator specifies that “schools … will judge the grade that these students would most likely have achieved if they had been able to sit their examinations with the intended reasonable adjustment or access arrangement in place”.

The regulators conclude that, given the timing of the announcement of the closure of schools, they “recognise that centres will have incomplete evidence, and that the range and amount of evidence will vary between different subjects. Judgements should be made on the evidence that is available”.

Please be assured that all items of evidence at our disposal will be given our full consideration.

As this grading task is a complex one, the regulators have stated that the earliest deadline for the submission of centre assessed grades would be 29th May, and this gives us a useful period of time to make and to refine our grade judgements in the light of all the evidence that is to hand, and which indeed continues to become available.

All schools and colleges have been provided by the regulators with the following instructions:

“Centres must not, under any circumstances, share the centre assessment grades nor the rank order of students with students, or their parents / carers or any other individuals outside the centre, before final results have been issued. This is to protect the integrity of teachers’ judgements, and to avoid teachers, Heads of Department, senior leaders or Heads of Centre being put under pressure by students and parents to submit a grade that is not supported by the evidence”.

It goes without saying that the School will be doing its very best for each and every candidate, and that all teachers will be making the most considered judgements that they can on the basis of all the material at their disposal; they will find it easier to come to their conclusions if they are not hindered by enquiries, wholly understandable as the latter may be.

Should any candidate not achieve the results that he or she had anticipated, the regulator in England plans to hold an autumn examination series, but the timing of this is as yet uncertain as the virus pursues its course; this would make a traditional examination opportunity available to our candidates in the majority of subjects, although it does raise substantial timing issues.

Your son or daughter now has every incentive to continue to work rigorously in pursuit of the following objectives:

  1. a) the provision of the highest-quality evidence to support the determining of centre assessed grades, the final deadline for the submission of which falls at the end of May;
  2. b) the opportunity as a fall-back position to sit traditional GCSE examinations at some point in the autumn;
  3. c) the imperative of keeping the individual’s A Level subject options wide open by continuing to work on all of his or her GCSE subjects;
  4. d) the opportunity to make a flying start in the pupil’s ultimate A Level subjects on the basis of continuous and recent learning. It is important that you have access to all of the information at the School’s disposal for the sake of transparency, and we will ensure that we keep you up-to-date as further details are released by the regulators; however, please treat anything that you might encounter in the media with caution, as this is a complex situation and the journalists might not necessarily be in possession of the full picture.

You will undoubtedly appreciate that this process will be giving us considerable cause for thought, and it would certainly appear that the authorities in Wales and England are doing their very best to provide a level playing field for their Year 11 candidates.

Should you have any questions regarding the content of this letter, please do not hesitate to contact me – gnorthern@rydalpenrhos.com.

Kind regards,

Guy Northern

Examinations Officer