Updates to Year 11 GCSE

The information on this page is for parents of our Year 11 pupils. Where previous general updates have referred to the GCSE situation, this has been extracted and placed below.

Dear Parents

I am writing to remind you of the school’s position regarding our Year 11 GSCE pupils.

The previous updates (below) chart our growing concern that our pupils may fall victim to a far from perfect alternative to not sitting the ‘real’ exams. It is our belief that pupils should continue their studies under the tutelage of our staff to give themselves the best possible grade – either when it is submitted by the school on May 29th or should they wish to take the exam at a later point.

The exam board have stated that there is no ‘requirement’ to do additional work and that students should not be ‘disadvantaged’. This may well be the case, but nowhere does it state that pupils are not able to provide work until May 29th (as long as it can authenticated as their own) that may well lead to a higher grade than they would have otherwise received had they not done the work. We believe that we should continue to assess and gather the best possible evidence base to justify their eventual school submitted grade. And, this will almost certainly be subject to an external audit from Ofqual. This is because independent schools, in the main, do not use Progress 8 and other baseline data that Ofqual are using to formulate an algorithm (see later) to substantiate the state sector GSCE school submissions. The less we can leave to the flaws of a ill-conceived ‘second-best’, the more it has to be an ‘advantage’ to our children.

If pupils are not happy with the final grade submitted by the school and there is no proper appeals’ process or one that does not satisfy parents, what then? It would appear that in the end, the only recourse would be for the pupils to take the exam at some point. Some pupils regardless of this may want to take the exam anyway, as the grade given, in my view, will never really be properly acknowledged.

As you are aware, through our ‘remote’ learning provision, our staff have already gone to extra-ordinary lengths (and will continue to do so) to ensure that our Year 11 pupils are given the best possible chance of securing the best possible grades. As well as this, the staff are also concentrating their efforts into providing a comprehensive evidence base that will justify the submitted grade on May 29th and that will ‘stand’ under the probable Ofqual audit.

Statististcal Standardiszation Raises Further Questions

I do not take exception to most of the proposals in the circumstances, but one to which I do is the proposal to use a statistical standardisation process to adjust teacher predicted grades using (a) historical outcomes for each centre, (b) the prior attainment (Key Stage 2 or GCSE) of this year’s students and those in previous years within each centre, and (c) the expected national grade distribution for the subject given the prior attainment of the national entry.

This proposed approach may work well to achieve the objective of applying a common standardisation approach, within and across subjects, for most schools. However, our school – along with many other independent schools – do not submit KS2 assessment data and do not therefore have a Progress 8 measure, which presumably is what will be used for parts (b) and (c) of the standardisation process.

Where no prior attainment data is available and where historical data is statistically unreliable, OFQUAL has no obvious means of accurately standardising the teacher predicted grades submitted by our school unless they are planning to build a separate algorithm that factors in CATs Data. This is the testing that we use for baseline testing, tracking purposes and GCSE predictions. Without doubt, this data is the most accurate predictor of GCSE grades and Ofqual would be more than remiss if they were to ignore this along with our mock examination progress data and summative teacher assessment in their acceptance of our teacher submitted grades.

Consultation

Recently Ofqual has announced a two-week consultation on the arrangements for the awarding of public examination grades this summer. You can access the consultation on its website and it will be open until 23.45 on Wednesday 29 April 2020.

The consultation on the arrangements for the awarding of grades and Ofqual’s associated news story can also be found at the links below:

Consultation 
Exceptional Arrangements

Results Day

The Department for Education has confirmed that results for GCSEs will be released on the same date as originally planned – 20 August. The DfE has an email address for questions: COVID19.EXAMINATIONS@education.gov.uk

Yours sincerely

Ms A C Bingley (Principal)

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE TO PARENTS – TUESDAY, 14th APRIL, 2020

OFQUAL UPDATE REGARDING GCSEs

Last week, Ofqual announced their plans for making sure students taking GCSEs, get grades this summer. They published information for teachers, heads of department and heads of centre, a message to students and some guidance which gives answers to common questions. They have now also so published a short film for teachers and another for students to help everyone understand the process better.

In summary, they’re asking schools to do 2 things for each of their pupils:

Make a judgement about the grade that each student was most likely to have achieved, if they had taken their exams in summer 2020. To do this, we will take account of all available evidence including school records, mock exams, and non-exam assessment (NEA) that a pupil has done.

Rank each pupil relative to others for who we also judge would have got the same grade. For example, if we judge that 8 pupils would have been most likely to achieve a grade 4 at GCSE, we should rank those 8 students from 1 (the most secure/most likely to achieve the grade) to 8 (the least secure/least likely). Those judgments should be holistic, based on the range of evidence that we have. So, pupils shouldn’t worry about one disappointing mock exam result, if their NEA work wasn’t finished or they haven’t been able to complete to their usual standard – or at all – any work set after school closed. We should take all the evidence into account and come to a balanced view.

Ofqual will shortly publish a detailed consultation on a variety of changes to their rules, and revised approaches, to deliver the fairest results for pupils in the current exceptional circumstances.

Please do watch the videos and please be assured that we will do everything necessary to ensure that Tower College pupils get the results they deserve. And, please remember that our staff are continuing to provide online learning and assessment. This will, of course, help in their evidence base up to May 29th when the results have to be submitted. And, should the pupils decide to take their examination at later date, the continued provision will be essential.

Arrangements for summer 2020

Dear Parents

I hope this update still finds you safe and well.

Many of you will have seen Ofqual’s announcement today about how GCSEs will be awarded this summer. I recommend that you read Ofqual message to students after reading this update.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/awarding-qualifications-in-summer-2020/letter-to-students-summer-2020-grading

I have to admit that I fail to see why the pupils cannot sit their GSCEs at the end of the first term in 6th form college or as part of their ASs. At least then, there would be no arguments over the grading process and the pupils would receive a ‘true’ grade.

At Tower College, we have been supporting the ISC, who have been lobbying both Ofqual and the Department for Education at the highest level for the past three weeks in order to get them to support a level of activity in schools in the summer term. You will see that the submission of data (predicted grades and rank orders) will now not happen until late May/early June, which is helpful to our staff in that they wish to continue setting and marking work. ISC pushed back against those arguing that schools should be stopped from asking Year 11 to do work. In fact, quite a few schools will now embark on A-level teaching for Year 11s.

ISC also successfully pushed the idea that school-predicted grades should be kept confidential until at least the results are out.

Alongside member associations such as ISA, the ISC will continue to support Tower College at this difficult time.

Awarding of exam grades

Ofqual has published further detail of how GCSEs, AS and A-levels will be awarded this summer.

Grades will be awarded based on a combination of centre assessment grades and a process of standardisation by exam boards using a model being developed by Ofqual.

On centre assessment, schools will be asked to provide grades for candidates that are “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”, alongside a rank order of students within each grade for each subject.

On the standardisation process, Ofqual has said the model will be expected to include “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”.

Other points to note from today’s announcement:

  • Schools will be asked to provide evidence for their students no earlier than 29 May
  • Schools and colleges have been told they must not share their centre assessment grades with students, parents or carers under any circumstances, until after final results are issued
  • Results won’t be delayed beyond normal August dates and may be issued a little earlier
  • There will be an appeals process but this will be relatively narrow and based on the application of the process
  • Students unhappy with their grades will have the opportunity to take their exams in the autumn series (both grades will stand)
  • While schools can set students work following school closures to help determine grades, the guidance states: “There is no requirement to set additional mock exams or homework tasks for the purposes of determining a centre assessment grade and no student should be disadvantaged if they are unable to complete any work set after schools were closed.”

The ISC chairman’s released this press statement earlier today.

“Ofqual has done the best it can to produce new exam grading arrangements in almost impossible circumstances. “We expect teachers will now be given the support and guidance they need to produce their predicted grades and pupils should be reassured that there will be an exam sitting, hopefully in the autumn, for those who are not satisfied with their results.”

We will be working on the information given to us at this stage to gain the best possible deserved outcomes for our pupils as we await further guidance. We will be contacting our GCSE parents very soon with our proposals.

Dear Year 11

I wish I were writing to you under different circumstances. But, unfortunately fate seems to have conspired against us and dealt the most unfavourable of hands – to say the least!

Your teachers too feel short-changed. They have spent the last three years preparing you for the most important exams of your life – covering vast amounts of subject knowledge, teaching you the skills of applying that knowledge and constantly urging you to remain focussed and stretch yourselves to your very limits. Not to mention completing all those past papers, timed exam practices and attending interventions when exhausted. All this, only to be seemingly snatched away at the most inopportune time – counting for nothing.

I say ‘seemingly’ very deliberately because nothing could be further from the truth. You have gained everything that is essential. How do I know this? I had the pleasure and privilege of attending Mock Results Day, where I witnessed a delightful group of mature, considerate and polite young people celebrating the successes, but more tellingly – commiserating with those not quite as successful with an empathy usually associated with much older people. You have grown, you have learned, you have made friends for life and above all you prepared yourself perfectly for whatever comes next.

I understand that the future is uncertain, but no matter what future may hold, trust in the skills you have learned here and you will prevail. Please do not become too despondent; the dreams you have dreamed until now will still be achievable when this crisis has passed.

No one is more disappointed than me that we had to postpone your Prom Night! Like you, I was so looking forward to the celebration and sharing such a wonderful evening at an exciting new venue. All things being well, we will rearrange this for a date in September 2020. If GCSE results are forthcoming, we will also use the evening to replace the customary Results Day that we hold on the back lawn each year.

I was struggling to find a fitting ending to this letter until I saw the video of Jason Mraz on the new LMS site. I googled his other songs and came across a real gem – so in the words of Jason Mraz …

May you have auspiciousness and causes of success
May you have the confidence to always do your best
May you take no effort in your being generous
Sharing what you can, nothing more nothing less
May you know the meaning of the word happiness
May you always lead from the beating in your chest
May you be treated like an esteemed guest
May you get to rest, may you catch your breath

And may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows
And may the road less paved be the road that you follow

May you be as fascinating as a slap bracelet
May you keep the chaos and the clutter off your desk (I wish I could!)
May you have unquestionable health and less stress
Having no possessions though immeasurable wealth
May you get a gold star on your next test
May your educated guesses always be correct
And may you win prizes shining like diamonds
May you really own it each moment to the next

Please, stay safe. And, know that, whatever happens, the teachers are immensely proud of you – exam results or not.

Ms A C Bingley
Principal

For information purposes, I have included the below from Mark Bedlow, Chief Executive of AQA. We will, of course, keep you updated with the next set of guidance that will be issued soon.

Following the decision to close schools and not go ahead with this summer’s exams, the government has announced more details of how grades will be awarded this summer. I know how keen you are to have some clarity, so I wanted to share this information with you right away.

Here are the main points:

Regulators will develop and set out a process that will provide a calculated grade to each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible, and will work with us and the other exam boards to ensure this is consistently applied for all students.

Exam boards will be asking teachers, who know their students well, to submit their judgement about the grade that they believe the student would have received if exams had gone ahead.

To produce this, teachers will be asked to take into account a range of evidence and data including performance on mock exams and non-exam assessment. Clear guidance on how to do this fairly and robustly will be provided to schools and colleges soon.

Exam boards will then combine this information with other relevant data, including prior attainment, and use this information to produce a calculated grade for each student, which will be a best assessment of the work they have put in.

Regulators and exam boards will be discussing with teachers’ representatives before finalising the approach, to ensure that it’s as fair as possible. More information will be provided as soon as possible.

The aim is to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July.

These grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years.

We’ll also aim to ensure that the distribution of grades follows a similar pattern to that in other years, so that this year’s students aren’t disadvantaged.

Students will be able to appeal their grades if they don’t believe the right process has been followed.

There will also be an option to sit exams early in the next academic year for any students who wish to – and students can also choose to sit exams next summer.
I hope this new information will answer some of your questions – but I appreciate that you may still have some. I promise we’re working hard with regulators and government to get all the answers, so please bear with us.

We’re here to support you through these extraordinary times, and we’ll share new details as soon as we get them. We’ll be keeping our website updated with any new information too.

Working together, we’ll ensure that the hard work by you and your students will all be worthwhile – and that your students have the grades they need to progress to the next stage of the lives.

Thank you for your patience and support.

Mark Bedlow

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE: SUNDAY 22nd MARCH 2020

Dear Parents

GCSE PUPILS – WHAT NEXT?

No doubt all our GCSE students are now aware of the GCSE exams’ cancellation. I really do feel for them but fully understand why the government has decided to do this. I will be writing a personal message to them tomorrow to be sent by ParentMail, placed on the website and Facebook.

The full explanation of the government’s decision can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020#what-will-happen-to-those-who-have-already-done-some-non-exam-assessment

However, from the school’s perspective, I am particularly interested in point 10 of the document:

  1. What if I am unhappy with my grade?

We will work closely with Ofqual and awarding organisations to ensure candidates are awarded a fair grade that recognises the work they have put in. If a student does not believe the correct process has been followed in their case they will be able to appeal on that basis. In addition, if they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam, as soon as is reasonably possible after schools and colleges open again. Students will also have the option to sit their exams in summer 2021.

And, it is for the above reasons that I believe all our GCSE pupils must not relax their efforts. Predicted grades are all well and fine, if you have a pass! But what if you don’t, and what if the grade given is not high enough for entry into future academic institutions.

Too many unknowns at this stage and I urge our pupils to continue to complete the work set by their teachers through our LMS. If any pupil at a later date wishes to take a GCSE, I guarantee that they will receive the full support of Tower College.

Until the next update, I leave you with a beautiful old Irish blessing …

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Yours sincerely

Ms A C Bingley (Principal)

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