In response to the disruption of classroom-based education across the UK, caused by COVID-19, the government announced that all statutory assessments, tests, and qualifications due to take place in the spring/summer of 2021, would not go ahead as planned. Those in teacher jobs will experience huge changes as a result of this.
Teacher Assessed Grades (TAG) Systems
All pupils due to take Key Stage 1 and 2 assessments, GCSEs, AS levels, A levels, other general qualifications, and some vocational and technical qualifications such as BTEC, will instead be awarded grades based on teacher assessment. This applies to all schools and colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who deliver Ofqual-regulated qualifications offered by Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), Oxford, Cambridge, and the Royal Society of Arts (RSA/OCR), Pearson, the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC) Eduqas, Award Scheme Development Organisation and Awarding Body (ASDAN), and City & Guilds.
This method of assessing pupils differs from the predicted grades, issued in June 2020, which were based on the school’s judgement of what the candidate would have achieved, had the exams taken place.
The school-assessed grades in June 2021 will be based on actual achievement. Teacher Assessed Grades (TAG) are the teacher’s judgment of the pupil’s demonstrated achievement. They cannot speculate whether the individual could have done better had there been no pandemic or disruption to the learning process.
In addition to TAG, teachers will also be required to submit a pupil ranking order.
This is the order that pupils rank within each grade for each subject. For example, if there are 10 students who are awarded a Grade 5 in GCSE Maths, they must rank those 10 students in order 1 to 10, with 1 as the highest attainment.
In the summer of 2021, exam boards will ask schools and centres to generate a TAG for each of their pupils in every subject.
These grades will be based on a range of evidence which demonstrates the pupil’s performance on the subject content, taught throughout the year. This evidence should relate to subject specific content and reflect the type of questions and tasks pupils would normally undertake in preparation for the examination.
The set questions and tasks should be accessible for students of all abilities, allowing them to demonstrate performance that supports higher grades.
The following types of evidence are recommended by the government.
- Work produced in response to assessment materials provided by the exam board, including groups of questions, past, practice or sample papers.
- Non-exam assessment (NEA) work, also known as coursework.
- Work produced that follows the same format as exam board materials and has been marked in a way that reflects exam board marking schemes. This can include:
- Substantial class or homework (including those that took place during remote learning).
- Internal tests taken by pupils.
- Mock exams taken over the course of study.
- Records of a pupil’s capability and performance over the course of study in performance-based subjects, such as Music, Drama and PE.
- Records of each pupil’s progress and performance over the course of study.
The Department for Education (DFE) requires teachers to gather a range of evidence in order to form judgements on the grade level of each pupil. Although evidence can be from anytime during the pupils’ course of study, the DFE advises teachers to balance continued teaching time with any assessments they need to undertake.
In order for school-assessed grades to be based on a similar amount of work as used to determine an examination grade, the general guidance recommends an evidence portfolio of three substantial pieces of work for each pupil, in each syllabus. Each one of these pieces of evidence should be:
- A piece of work that has taken at least one hour of concentrated work to complete.
- Or, a combination of shorter tasks in order to create a single substantial piece of work, that has taken at least one hour of concentrated work to complete.
- A completed paper dated before June 2020.
- Or a coursework component prepared according to syllabus requirements.
Four Helpful Tips
- Work done at home can be included as evidence to support a teacher’s judgement if it cannot be produced in the school environment because of the pandemic.
- Evidence can be from any time during the pupils’ course of study. In many cases the quality of work improves during the course of study, so that later work is at a higher level. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the level of progression may have delayed because of prolonged periods of school closure. In these circumstances, school/centres may wish to include earlier work in the pupil’s portfolio, so that the grades reflect their best work.
- Exam boards will provide “optional” questions for each subject, to aid teachers in reaching grades alongside other evidence, such as coursework and mock exam results.
- Pupils should only be assessed on what they have been taught, ensuring sufficient coverage of the curriculum and to enable progression. When determining the grade, teachers should reflect the standard at which the pupil is known to currently perform.
Standardisation of grades
The standardisation of grades model will operate at subject level, not at school/centre level. For example, the standardisation for GCSE English language will not be affected by the standardisation of GCSE history or A level English language.
Within each subject, the standardisation model will consider each school/centre individually, using historical results and the prior achievement of current pupils.
Note of caution
There have been discussions regarding how the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the freedom of information act could come into play when teachers are using email to discuss how to grade pupils, as anything that a teacher writes down must be submitted if/when a pupil requests access to their data. If you feel unsure on this matter, we recommend asking your Head Teacher for guidance or research how GDPR applies in this circumstance. Click here for more information from Schools, Students and Teacher (SSAT) website.
We have complied a list of the main exam boards, with a link to their advice on this summer's exam changes:
- AQA - a step-by-step video guide to gathering a range of evidence for grading.
- OCR - detailed support and guidance for determining and submitting pupils’ grades.
- Pearson (Edexcel) - support and guidance documents and pre-recorded and live training sessions to support teachers in determining grades.
- ASDAN - retaining qualification integrity through regulated arrangements that supports learners.
- WJEC - outline of plans for the delivery of GCSE, AS/A levels, Skills Challenge Certificates and Vocational Qualifications.
- City &Guilds - information and guidance relating to the adaptations for assessments and examinations.
It is important that all judgements relating to pupils’ grades are fair, objective and reasonable. Here is a helpful guide from Ofqual with more information.
You can use Ofqual’s qualification explainer tool to find out which qualifications can or cannot be awarded through a Teacher Assessed Grade and Ofqual has also produced guidance for teachers on the submission of these grades.
Key dates for your diary
- 26 May - grades are submitted from this date.
- 18 June - deadline for the submission of data, including grades for the endorsements.
- Every School/Centre will be asked to provide evidence of student work. Exam boards will request evidence for at least 1 A level subject and 2 GCSE subjects (one of which is likely to be either English language or maths).
- All Schools/Centres will be asked to provide the evidence used to determine the grades for at least 5 students for each of these subjects.
- Week beginning 21 June - Exam Boards will let Schools/Centres know which subjects and students have been selected.
- Evidence will need to be returned to exam boards within 48 hours of the request.
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