Awarding of Grades (Summer 2021)

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Dear Parents, Carers and Students, 


Guidance was released last week from Ofqual and the Department for Education about how examination grades will be awarded this year.  This can be viewed at the following links: 

GCSE & A Level:

Decisions on how GCSE, AS and A level grades will be determined in summer 2021

Vocational Qualifications:

Alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021

The DfE/Ofqual consultation was undertaken, following the closure of schools to most students to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus, and the decision that examinations cannot go ahead as normal this summer.

Following the decision to cancel examinations, it has been confirmed that this year UK-based examination boards will be asking teachers and schools, who know students best, to use their judgement to assess what has been learned and to determine student grades.  The arrangements being put in place will only take account of what students have been taught, not what they have missed, making it no harder overall for this year’s students to receive a particular grade than students in previous years.  We wanted to highlight some of the initial key details to students, parents and carers. Extracts from the Department for Education’s update can be read below: 

‘Teachers will be able to draw on a range of evidence when determining grades, including the optional use of questions provided by exam boards, as well as mock exams, coursework, or other work completed as part of a pupil’s course, such as essays or in-class tests. No algorithm will be used.’ 

‘Teachers will submit grades to exam boards by 18 June, allowing as much teaching time as possible before teachers make their assessments’. 

‘Results days for GCSE, A level and some vocational qualifications will take place in the week of 9 August – moved forward from the week of the 23 August.’

‘To support teachers in making their judgements, exam boards will provide detailed guidance before the end of the spring term.’ 

‘Students studying vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) that are often taught alongside GCSEs and A levels on one or two year courses, and used for university or college places, will also receive grades assessed by teachers rather than sitting exams.’ 

‘Schools, colleges and other educational settings will conduct multiple checks – such as checking consistency of judgements across teachers and that the correct processes were followed – to ensure as much fairness as possible.’ 

‘At the same time, exam boards will conduct their own checks, through a combination of random sampling and more targeted scrutiny where they identify cause for concern’.

‘Every student will have the right to appeal their grade’. 

In general, grades will be awarded as we anticipated, based on the professional judgement of teachers.  This judgement will come from a range of sources across the students’ period of study, although we are still waiting for further detail on the balance between different components.  The important point is that there is not just one thing which dictates the grade.  This means that a single very good or very disappointing piece of work (even if it was in the mocks) does not mean that a student will be awarded that grade: this piece of work will provide just one piece of evidence. 

It is also important to note that the UK-based exam board assessments are not exams and will not be the only basis of the grades awarded.  We do not yet have the details on these assessments, but it is anticipated that most subjects would do some assessments in Module 5.  It is not impossible that a few may be conducted at the end of this module, but we will give students as much warning as possible about both the content and the style of the assessments.  We will confirm the Year 11 and 13 assessment timeline as soon as we have more information.

IB Qualifications (Year 13 only):

IB May 2021 series_one page explainer.pdf

The IBO has had a global plan in place since last summer to employ a dual assessment model for results in 2021.  This includes a reduction in the content that will be tested in final examinations.  Schools can either enter their students for examinations as usual, if local conditions allow for them to be safely undertaken, or have their students graded via a combination of coursework marks and teacher predicted grades.  Over the February half term holiday, the IBO withdrew the option for examinations in UK schools, at the request of Ofqual.  As a result, all UK students taking IB qualifications in 2021 will be graded via coursework marks and teacher predicted grades. Moderation of coursework marking is being undertaken within the academy and with colleagues from across the Trust at the moment, as almost all coursework has been completed by students already.

Coursework will be marked blind by trained IB examiners (which means that marks awarded by teachers serve only as a guide to the likely final coursework marks) and will carry the same weighting as outlined in the revised assessment plan for 2021. Teacher predicted grades will replace the weighting originally allocated to examinations.  These teacher predicted grades are to be based on all of the work that students have undertaken in preparation for examinations across both years of the course.  Although the global deadline for submission of coursework, coursework marks and teacher predicted grades is 20th April, we are intending to complete this process by Thursday 1st April (the last day of Module 4) to allow for the Easter holiday. 

The IBO will combine coursework marks and the teacher predicted grade to generate a final overall grade for each student in each subject but they have built in a process to make sure that each school’s results broadly follow the same spread of grades that the school has achieved in recent years (where this historic trend is in place).  Schools will be able to reward students who have performed better than previous students and there will be an appeals process in place when results are released on 6th July.  

So, to summarise:

  • IB coursework and predicted grades need to be submitted to the IBO globally by 20th April but within our academy by 1st April
  • All other GCSE, A Level & BTEC grades need to be submitted to exam boards by 18th June 
  • IB results will be released on 6th July
  • A Level results will be released on 10th August  
  • GCSE results will be released on 12th August  

There will be some form of moderation by the exam board, and students will have the right to appeal a grade they think is unfair.  There is a lot of detail that has still not been released on how both of these things will work. 

The point about moderation is important: our staff cannot artificially inflate grades, first because it would be wrong to do so, and secondly because it may lead to other students’ grades being brought down.  Related to this, we do need to stress that the grade awarded will not necessarily be the highest grade ever achieved during the course.  There is always a temptation to believe that because a recent assessment was graded 7 or A, it means that it is unfair to be given a 6 or B: a range of evidence will be used to calculate the final grade. 

As you can see from the above, further information about the range of evidence, data, and methodology to be used by schools to submit fair and accurate grades will follow with the publication of guidance from examination boards in due course.  We will review this and subsequent guidance from all examination boards fully, before embarking upon the subsequent submission of any student data.  We will, or course, continue to be in touch with all students, parents and carers with further updates. Please be reassured that we will continue to support our students over the coming months, to prepare for and complete any further assessments required.  Students are encouraged to remain fully engaged with their studies, at this time and on their return to the academy. 

I appreciate that this is all very complicated.  If you have any queries please contact Sarah Forde, leading on examinations, Kevin Brewer, leading on Year 11 or Lee Forcella-Burton, leading on Year 13.

Thank you for your continued support at this time.


Yours faithfully,


Julia Collins