Following the announcement of the cancellation of the summer exam series on 18th March, the DfE and Awarding bodies have started to reveal the overarching approach to awarding grades on 20th March. 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. The significant role of teacher predictions will bring tough emotional and logistical challenges as well as potential friction between teachers, subject leaders and senior leaders.
The internal assessment data will be fundamental to this process and so making sure this is in good order will support the whole process of teacher predictions and help reduce stress levels of staff. Here are some considerations to support you with early preparations around your current data to provide clarity, consistency and confidence in teacher grade predictions.
What we know
Teachers will be expected to make “their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead” (DfE, March 20th). The DfE and therefore all exam boards have stated that teachers will use:
- mock data
- non-examined assessment data
- completed coursework or internally assessed units (where applicable in Welsh GCSE’s and vocational courses)
All exam boards state that it grades will be submitted, therefore any raw marks are unlikely to be used at the submission level. There are no clues about whether this will be unit grades (which the exam boards would then combine to decide grades) or overall course grades. At this point we know teacher grade predictions will be done using 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. If you need support with this then we are opening up free access of our exam-board tracking system for all subjects.
All exam boards have stated that there will be “Clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly”. The only indication of a timeframe for this is from Eduqas stating; “We will be in contact with schools and colleges in April to provide further details on how and when to submit these teacher assessed grades to us [emphasis added]” (Ian Morgan, Chief Executive Eduqas).
Challenges and Considerations
Many teachers will respond to this differently; some will relish the opportunity to prove that teachers know their students, others may feel a lack of confidence and therefore guilt and anxiety around awarding their students grade predictions. Ensuring there is a clear, systematic approach to this across your department will support consistency. More guidance will follow from the exam board so you do not need to decide on an approach yet, but there are actions you can take to be prepared to make this process as smooth as possible.
Teachers will undoubtedly have submitted assessment point data this year, but this will be different. The higher stakes brought by these grades actually being used by the exam boards to award grades will mean everybody will want to ensure they are as fair, justifiable and consistent as possible. We all want to be able to sleep well at night after this and be proud of the job we have done!
All stakeholders will want to have confidence in the data; teachers, subject leaders, senior leaders, governors, parents and most importantly your students. Therefore scrutiny will be needed and could be a source of friction if there is a lack of clarity over how the overall course grade has been estimated. Providing access to all staff involved with the process is best done using an online spreadsheet or tracker to make sure all have access to the most up-to-date data. This will support with any conversations over the phone when checking the data and grades being used. Our online platform is set and ready to support you to do this and we are making it free to use during this challenging period.
Any friction surrounding discussions about predicting grades is not necessarily because of a lack of trust, but because each person involved will need to feel comfortable with the grades that are being submitted (see Preparing for Internal Verification of Teacher Grade Predictions). Each will have their own concerns when looking at the same data. Seeing the process from raw marks for each unit, to a grade for each unit and then to a final course grade, will support everyone in having a supportive dialogue and narrative.
Going from raw marks to grades
First of all, there is no need to start predicting until further guidance comes from the exam boards. But you can start preparing to make sure your predicted grades are as informed as possible. We also strongly believe that this will help you feel more in control and more comfortable about the process, having a positive impact on any anxiety or stress that has been created.
When looking at your current tracking, these are some tips and advice we can give in using raw data to make accurate predictions. This is based on our experience in the classroom and backed by year-on-year predictions that are within 1% of actual grades awarded across multiple subjects.
It is the same underpinning approach applied by thousands of teachers that currently use Pupil Progress Tracking Software, and have all had similar experiences in the accuracy of their data.
Here is our recommended checklist for preparation:
- Identify the most reliable sources of data for each unit that you have
- Make sure the raw data you have is up-to-date
- Use raw data/ marks for each unit to work out a grade per unit
- Have clear data for each unit laid out so you can be confident in your judgement
- Make sure you have grades for each unit of the course where possible
- Show the data covers all units across the course and uses the exam criteria or most reliable past papers
- If your data is spread across many spreadsheets and databases, combine it into one simple overview
- Make sure overall marks for the course are calculated the same way the exam board does - right weightings for each unit, use scaling factors where necessary
- Be aware of the gaps for individual students or parts of the course
- Display your prior KS2 Attainment data
- Previous year cumulative percentages of of grades e.g. % 1+, 4+, 7+ for GCSE, E+, C+ A+ for A-Level, L2 Pass+, L2 Merit+ L2 Distinction+ for BTEC courses
- Data from previously sat exam units and internally assessed units
If you need support in collating your data, we have a tracking system that is exam-board specific for over 300 KS5 and KS4 courses and are giving free access until September 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.
By ensuring that you have clear data from the raw marks through to the grades you are predicting, it will make it easier to see how teachers have validated their grade decisions. This will:
- Improve consistency of the process of predicting grades
- Improve clarity to support discussions between colleagues when talking through the reasoning, therefore reducing friction
- Provide confidence to all stakeholders involved in the process that their predictions are based on the best data available and therefore ensures fairness
When further guidance is released
This is just the preparation stage. Preparing and collating your data will put you in a strong position to focus on the next stage; the predictions.
We know that further guidance will come from the exam board to support the process of raw data to a final grade. Starting from an organised, well prepared position, with clear information based on your personal knowledge of students will give you a lot more confidence and hopefully ease tensions during what may be a challenging time for some staff.
We have written about the validation stage that will be going on at exam-board level to provide some support for Heads of Department, Line Managers and Senior leaders.
We will also be releasing a blog once further guidance comes out. If you would like further information, you can sign up to notifications related to our blog series on the Supporting Teachers through the 2020 Grading Changes.