Students, teachers and parents exhaled a sigh of relief last week, following The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation’s (@Ofqual) announcement concerning the mechanics of exam grading in 2022.
Those students entering Years 11 and 13 this September had been anxiously awaiting confirmation on how their grades were to be evaluated, following discussion about how to manage the record-breaking surge in top grades awarded via teacher assessment this year. Ofqual and the Department for Education held a consultation which closed back in August on this topic and the whole education sector had been watching and waiting for the outcome ever since.
Announcing how grades will work in 2022 now gives students the peace of mind they need to concentrate on their studies for the majority of the academic year. It also gives teachers time to take the measures announced into account whilst delivering their lessons for the rest of the year.
It also puts to bed the rumblings around how next year’s grades can be made fair. This is vital for our young people who deserve to experience their final months at secondary school or college knowing their lessons and marks have value. It is also imperative that employers and higher education providers have faith in the grades students put forward in their applications.
As the Director of Education at Summit Learning Trust, which includes three secondary schools and a college, I agree wholeheartedly with Ofqual’s decision to allow pupils sitting GCSE and A-level exams in England next year to be given advance notice on the focus of exam papers and more lenient grading. Though we evidently need to start moving back towards a normal grading system, it is only right to acknowledge the disruption the pandemic has had on the education of those sitting exams next Summer.
Aiming to return to pre-pandemic levels of grading by 2023 seems like a realistic trajectory as those finishing up their secondary or college education this year had vital sections of their education disrupted, despite the excellent work that our staff did in teaching students remotely. I have been proud to witness the tenacity of our students and how keen they are to make up for any lost time in the classroom, however, to simply treat them as though the pandemic had never happened would have been unfair.
Within the Summit Learning Trust, we have taken proactive steps to ensure that our Year 11 students are given top class academic support. We have introduced an extra hour of teaching a day for all Year 11 learners across all our schools to make sure they cover everything they need to in great detail, giving them the equivalent of an extra day’s tuition every week. This is not a temporary measure. Though the idea was borne out of the aftermath of the pandemic, Period 5 is here to stay for all our students working towards GCSE examinations.
I am pleased that the government is set on students taking exams next year, though I appreciate the outlining of contingency planning to deliver teacher assessed grades if the worst should happen regarding Covid rates. Offering students some exam aids and a choice of topics in a variety of subjects is a reasonable way to provide this cohort of students with the grading safety net they deserve, whilst testing them through the rigour of examinations.
It was helpful to hear that advance information on examinations will be provided early next year to allow students to focus their revision. Revision is key and at the Summit Learning Trust we have provided all our Year 11 students with high quality sets of revision materials for free to make sure they have everything they need to continue their learning at home. We just hope that revising is all they will need to do from home this academic year.
Vince Green, Education Director at Summit Learning Trust
Prior to joining Summit, Vince was Regional Education Director and Executive Principal at a large multi-academy trust. Before this he was the Principal of Bristnall Hall Academy for five years, the highest performing secondary provider within its local authority and trust. Vince started his teaching career in Sendai, Japan and has held a variety of leadership roles in the West Midlands in rapidly improving schools.
Summit Learning Trust is based in Birmingham and includes four primary and three secondary schools and The 6th Form College, Solihull. They now provide an education for almost 8000 children and young people; some of their children are with them from age 5 to age 18.