Exam regulator Ofqual’s consultation on how to assess grades for cancelled GCSEs, AS, and A levels is now open.
Neil McLean, Head of Education at BCS, outlined the key issues the BCS School Curriculum and Assessment Committee will be highlighting in their submission ahead of Wednesday’s deadline.
Broadly speaking, the emphasis on trusting teachers is welcomed. We support Ofqual’s aims:
- to provide students with the grades that they would most likely have achieved had they been able to complete their assessments in summer 2020;
- to apply a common standardisation approach, within and across subjects, for as many students as possible;
- to use a method that is transparent and easy to explain, wherever possible, to encourage engagement and build confidence;
- to protect, so far as is possible, all students from being systematically advantaged or disadvantaged, notwithstanding their socio-economic background or whether they have a protected characteristic;
- to be deliverable by exam boards in a consistent and timely way that they can quality assure and can be overseen effectively by Ofqual.
We recognise that Ofqual has taken a fair and pragmatic response to meeting those aims and the requirements set out by Ministers, and are broadly content with the approach that has been developed. However, we believe GCSE Computer Science will present particular challenges. We are sharing these with the CAS Community so that individuals may consider them when making their own responses.
- GCSE Computer Science is relatively new, and teachers’ concerns over grading (whether or not they are well-founded) indicate that standards have not yet bedded down, so there may be inconsistencies in teacher judgement.
- GCSE Computer Science is the fastest growing GCSE – this means that schools are expanding the cohort beyond their previous approach to recruiting candidates, sometimes relaxing entry requirements used previously (eg predicted grade in GCSE mathematics). The cohort may not be typical of past years, presenting challenges for the use of historical data nationally and at the individual school level.
- Given, the government’s significant investment in CPD for GCSE CS teachers, we would expect that those schools where teachers have participated in GCSE CS CPD would perform better than they did historically.
- There is a high level of movement of CS teachers between schools. One teacher leaving or joining may significantly impact on results.
- CS departments are often very small so (as with other small entry subjects) internal moderation will not be possible. We would be happy through CAS to support a degree of moderation between schools if practical.
- We agree that data on individual candidates should be confidential, however, we’d support schools doing inter-school comparisons given CS teachers lack of in school peers. These could be on the basis of anonymised examples of candidate’s work.
- Unconscious bias is as much as a problem than with any other subject. However, with the significant number of CAT5/6 schools not offering CS and the historical misconceptions around gender, bias may play a larger part in CS than other subjects. However, there is no realistic method to compensate for this at scale. This supports the case for a degree of inter-school moderation.
- We agree Ofqual's proposals on appeals, but because of the above points there may be greater dissatsfaction with final grades in computer science than in other subjects, especially given teachers existing concerns about grading. We anticipate that this may lead to a significant take up of the proposed Autumn resits (which we support) and would encourage Ofqual to ensure re-sits are affordable.
To share your views on the process, the consultation is open here.