How is Ofqual chief seeking to alleviate pupil exam fears?


Ofqual‘s chief regulator has sought to dispel pupil fears that using externally-set papers to aid teacher grading this summer represents “exams by the back door”.

Under the regulator’s plans, pupils could be given papers set by exam boards to help teachers to award GCSE and A-level grades.

However, a record number of respondents to the government’s consultation on exams have flagged concerns over the approach.

In a blog post on the proposals, Ofqual chief Simon Lebus has responded to “allay concerns that some students have expressed to us – that these are exams by the back door. They are not.”

Providing a guide for teachers

He explained that using an external-set task would provide a “reference point” for teaching staff, allowing them to have confidence in the grades they are giving out.

Mr Lebus stated that the papers would be “just one source of evidence” used in the process of determining grades and that Ofqual wants to provide the means so that all teachers can “assess their students consistently”.

“Having something set externally provides a useful reference point, and helps to support consistency between different students in a school or college, and between schools and colleges in different parts of the country,” he said.

Familiarity for pupils

He added that other forms of evidence could include internal assessments, mock exam results and any other work that pupils have already submitted.

To reassure students, he said using a format similar to regular papers would provide familiarity, given that past papers are often used for practice and revision.

“It just means there could be questions in a form that students are used to,” he explained.

Giving teachers a choice over which questions to ask would allow them to take into account any missed teaching and disruption, with approaches potentially tailored to each subject.

‘No straight-forward options’

Mr Lebus said the varied nature of responses to the consultation has highlighted that there “are no straight-forward options” for how exams could be replaced.

The Education Policy Institute supports plans for a “short, standardised assessment”, with the think-tank also keen to avoid “excessive grade increases” by anchoring grades to those awarded in 2019.

The approach has also been backed by the Association of School and College Leaders, although they suggest the use of papers should “be encouraged not mandated”.

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