Ofqual has today set out details for schools, colleges, students, parents & carers on how GCSEs and A levels will be awarded following the cancellation of this year's exams.

"School or college based assessment already has an important role in many GCSEs, AS and A levels and in extraordinary circumstances such as these, schools and colleges are best placed to judge the likely performance of their students at the end of the course."

Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, Ofqual

For this summer’s awards, schools and colleges are being asked to provide centre assessment grades for their students. These should be fair, objective and carefully considered judgements of the grades schools and colleges believe their students would have been most likely to achieve if they had sat their exams, and should take into account the full range of available evidence.

"We have published a message to students to reassure them that we, and exam boards, will do everything we can to make sure that, as far as possible, grades are fair and that they are not disadvantaged in their progress to sixth form, college, university, apprenticeships, training or work because of these unprecedented conditions."

Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, Ofqual

Exam boards will be contacting schools, colleges and other exam centres after Easter asking them to submit, by a deadline that will be no earlier than 29 May 2020, the following:

  • A centre assessment grade for every student in each of their subjects: that is, the grade they would be most likely to have achieved if they had sat their exams and completed any non-exam assessment. Judgements should balance different sources of evidence such as:

    • Classwork
    • Bookwork
    • Any participation in performances in subjects such as music, drama or PE
    • Any non-exam assessment – whether or not complete
    • The results of any assignments or mock exams
    • Previous examination results – for example, for any re-sitting students or those with relevant AS qualifications
    • Any other records of student performance over the course of study

  • The rank order of students within each grade for each subject – for example, for all those students with a centre assessment grade of 5 in GCSE maths, a rank order where 1 is the most secure/highest attaining student, and so on. This information will be used in the statistical standardisation of centres’ judgements – allowing fine tuning of the standard applied across all schools and colleges.

  • A declaration from the Head of Centre making the submission

The process is more complicated for private candidates (students who have been home-schooled, following distance-learning programmes or studying independently) as there may be little evidence to work with. Ofqual have stated that it may, unfortunately, be necessary for some to take exams in the autumn or next summer to get their grades.

To make sure that grades are as fair as possible across schools and colleges, exam boards will put all centre assessment grades through a process of standardisation using a model being developed with Ofqual.

The model will likely look at evidence such as the expected national outcomes for this year’s students, the prior attainment of students at each school and college (at cohort, not individual level), and the results of the school or college in recent years. It will not change the rank order of students within each centre; nor will it assume that the distribution of grades in each subject or centre should be the same. The process will also recognise the past performance of schools and colleges.

If grading judgements in some schools and colleges appear to be more severe or generous than others, exam boards will adjust the grades of some or all of those students upwards or downwards accordingly.

Schools and colleges have been told that they must not share their centre assessment grades with students, parents or carers, under any circumstances, until after final results are issued. This is to protect the integrity of centres’ judgements, and to avoid anyone feeling under pressure to submit a grade that is not supported by the evidence.

Students will also have the opportunity to sit exams at the earliest reasonable opportunity in the new academic year. Many students will be taking other general and vocational or technical qualifications instead of or alongside GCSEs, AS and A levels. While this process does not apply to those qualifications, the same aims apply.

The Department for Education have published a letter from the Secretary of State for Education directing Sally Collier, Chief Regulator of Ofqual to make changes to allow students to receive calculated results for GCSEs, AS and A levels this year.