Supporting Teachers through the 2020 Grading Changes

Following the announcement of the cancellation of the summer exam series on 18th March due to COVID-19, the DfE and Awarding bodies have started to reveal the overarching approach to awarding grades on 20th March - see DfE Press release, March 20th. This has provided a few certainties for all people involved in education to start thinking about how this might affect them and the actions they can take.

Pupil Progress is a company that works across all exam boards and qualification types and provides support to schools at subject and whole school level to ensure accurate grade predictions. We feel we are in a really good position to provide support to schools. 

There are three main ways we can do this:

  1. Sharing our understanding and analysis of the details and implications
  2. Providing some things to consider as you are preparing your schools or departments for submitting teacher predicted grades
  3. Giving you free access to our platform for your year 11 groups if you require further practical support with predicting accurate grades
    Click here for more information on using our trackers for free to support  teacher predictions

We have been reading all press releases and statements across all exam boards and qualifications, collating the most important and relevant information into a single series to provide extra support so you can prepare for the task at hand.

We have divided the process and impact of the awarding process for 2020 into the following stages:

  • Teacher Grade Predictions submissions
  • Verification process of the submitted predictions
  • Preparations for results day 
  • Impact of the new grading approach on KS5 courses in Sept 2020
  • Challenging results and retakes

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Teachers Predicting Grades

Teachers will be predicting grades using a process that will be further defined by the exam-boards. At this point we know teachers will be required to use a combination of mock exam data and non-exam assessment (see Q2,Q5, Q15 and Q17 DfE Guidance, March 20th).  This means it is essential that schools subject leaders have their internal raw data in good order, ready to inform the teacher grade predictions. To support senior leaders and subject leaders to prepare, we have put together our guide to preparing for teacher predictions. We are not going to attempt to predict the methodology that will be issued by the exam board after you have submitted your grades; our focus is entirely on supporting you to be prepared with your raw data on which your judgements will rely.

Read "Preparing for Teacher Grade Predictions"

This process will cause some teachers and leaders a lot of anxiety due to the high-stakes nature of the predictions given. If there is poor clarity around the underlying data that is being used for these predictions, then this could be a source of friction between staff, parents and students. In a situation where the majority of staff will have to do this at home will that any data tracking will have to be managed and seen online to avoid miscommunication. Preparing for this by making sure your current data is as transparent and as accurate as possible will smooth this process, dramatically reducing stress and anxiety around it. 

Along with grades, teachers will need to rank order their students, specifically those with the same grade. This will support exam boards to identify which students should be adjusted when moderating grades submitted, to ensure a fair distribution of grades across all candidates nationally. This will present challenges especially in cases where multiple classes are taught by different teachers. We examine this in Facing the Challenges of Ranking your Students

Read "Facing the Challenges of Ranking Your Students"

Further details of the process will come from exam boards in April, by Easter, according to the Eduqas exam board. It would be safe to say that the process administered by individual schools would need to be completed/submitted by the end of May to ensure that there is time for the exam boards, JCQ and Ofqual to be able to complete the validation process in time for results to be released in July (DfE, March 20th). We have also put together a checklist that might help to look at the actions to take in preparing your raw data.

Click here for a downloadable version of our checklistInternal Verification of Predicted Grades

A very important stage in submitting teacher predicted grades will be internal verification and standardisation. No-one will want to submit grades that are at risk of being pulled down because of inconsistency, or because of unrealistic or unjustifiable grade predictions. Showing and communicating to parents and students that there has been a rigorous process that has been followed, and additional processes that have been put in place at a school will give confidence to the consistency and fairness of grade predictions. This will also help when it comes to any concerns or potential conflict on results day. Keeping up communications with staff and seeing the data in a clear format online will really support any internal verification that has to be done from home and over the phone - everyone will see the most up to date and live version of the data.

Click here to find out more about our free online tracking system to support  this whole process

We can use the information that has been given by the exam boards and DfE along with what we know about the ways prior attainment, national statistics and the processes to ensure even distribution of grades awarded year-on-year to understand how grades are likely to be adjusted nationally. 

Combining this with our experience at Pupil Progress in supporting thousands of teachers to get accurate grade predictions using our online trackers, we have written a guide for Preparing for Internal Verification of Teacher Predictions. We believe there are simple actions that can be taken at this stage to help you to prepare for setting up this process, which can be further refined when further guidance is released.

Read "COVID-19: Preparing for Internal Verification of Teacher Grade  Predictions"

Further support from Pupil Progress

The whole reason we started Pupil Progress was to support teachers to organise their data to inform teaching and learning, so they could get accurate grade predictions. In light of the extremely challenging situation we are all under, we are working tirelessly to open this up to as many schools as possible. We also feel it is the best way we can contribute to the national effort and to support the huge undertaking of teachers to make sure the grades that are predicted are fair and justifiable for their students.  

Pupil Progress is an exam-board specific tracking platform for over 300 KS5 and KS4 courses and we are giving free access until the end of August for all educational providers. We are even offering to set the system up for you so that you are able to begin collating your raw data in preparation as soon as possible. Our system will support the entire process, providing clarity, consistency and confidence in your predictions.

Click here for more information on using our trackers for free to support  teacher predictions

Results Day

It is going to be a very odd results day when it comes this year. It will be in July for a start. The difference for students coming in to collect grades that they may feel have been given to them rather than earnt by them, will completely change the dynamic. There may be mixed emotions of relief, joy, disbelief, frustration and anger for teachers, parents and students. There will be questions and challenges raised. Those who have taught year 13 and had to award grade predictions for UCAS will have some experience of a mild version of what is likely to come.

Having clear structures and guidance in giving the teacher predictions will support with managing difficult conversations when results are received. Knowing the processes that the exam boards have taken will provide teachers with some answers they can give students. It will be important to be prepared for difficult conversations and find ways to ease the tensions and frustrations that will be coming on this day.

The DfE have already stated that there will be opportunities to validate the results by exams when we return to some normality (DfE, March 20th). There is also the opportunity to resit exams next year. As details come through, we will keep you up to date on the implications of these announcements. 

Preparing for September

As schools prepare for students to return in September (hopefully), there will be vast differences between students who have been distance-learning. Some will have used the time wisely and studied hard, others may have done some, but lack knowledge in particular areas. Others may sadly have done little work or really struggled with the change in situation. We will be sharing our thoughts and those of other teachers on how we can prepare to assess students and how to provide a structured way to help close any gaps in knowledge.

Heads of sixth form and colleges will have a really challenging time in enrolling students for appropriate courses. Even with all the best data and information some students may have grades that don’t accurately reflect their current attainment in a subject, because;

  • some parts of the course may not have been taught/ revised
  • some students will have knowledge gaps
  • some will have fallen back in their studies
  • some may have grades that don’t accurately reflect their current attainment in a subject
  • some may have taken the opportunity to start preparing for their courses already

Having a fair, effective way to help induct students into their new courses and get a rigorous baseline will be essential, and we will support you with this. Having accurate data that shows where there are knowledge and skill gaps will help to provide teachers to provide support in the right areas.

We will be regularly updating this post as further information and details come to light. If you would like to be kept informed of updates on Supporting Teachers through the COVID-19 Crisis, then please fill out the form using this link:

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We are want to make ourselves available for contact to any teachers who would like to ask any questions or want any advice relating to the content in this series. If you would like to do this, please contact us at info@pupil-progress.co.uk or alternatively you can book a call at a time that suits you.