The pandemic caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has made adjustments to the familiar lifestyle of people around the world. The UK was no exception: due to the introduction of a regime of self-isolation and distance learning in online format, students of British institutions expect several changes.
In this article SMAPSE experts will try to answer current questions arising on this topic, indicating all the amendments.
Do exams need to be canceled?
Starting March 20, UK schools are quarantined for all students except students of critical employees or the most vulnerable students. The outbreak of coronavirus significantly affected the British education system: the changes will affect not only the quarantine period, but also the next few months. Therefore, the face-to-face delivery of the planned final tests is canceled - students and parents can now not worry about this.
If someone already has a grade on the subject without passing the exam?
Students planning to take A-level, AS, GCSE this summer will receive a calculated final grade: actual data will be used to determine it, including a subject grade or test results. To ensure that the assessment is fair and accurate, the examination committee uses for this purpose a single scheme developed in conjunction with Ofqual, an independent regulatory body for qualifications. This is a separate guide for awarding GCSE, AS, A-levels, which allows you to determine the level of knowledge of a student without passing exams.
How to prevent certain groups of students (from dysfunctional families, for example) from losing due to teacher bias in the assessment?
The Ofqual regulator has developed a robust and operational scheme that takes into account a wide range of facts, including existing assessments of schools or colleges. Based on them, a potential result for each of the students will be formed. Ofqual's main goal is to make the summer certification process as fair as possible for all students.
From April 15 to 29, the center conducted a consultation survey aimed at identifying options for assessing GCSE, AS, or A-level. Among them - the methodology of equality from the scientific literature on the topic of bias assessment. To form the final objective concept of the academic result, Ofqual will take into account research materials plus the results of an open survey - the answers received will be processed and will be published shortly.
Students who feel that their final score does not reflect real knowledge will have the opportunity to take an exam immediately after quarantine is lifted.
Will A-level students receive predictive grades for university entrance?
No. A preliminary assessment forecast may not be objective for each student. The conditional average score that the examination commissions suggest that schools or colleges use in the certification of GCSE, AS, A-level, shows only the probable mark when passing the exam. However, the institutions will have to make a forecast according to the general scheme, so it is likely that the final estimates - predicted and actually calculated - may not coincide.
Do schools plan to use the results of mock exams as a guideline for the final grade? Is this considered fair if the students did not expect that the educational result will be used as the main one?
The results of mock exams are one of the sources of information for making a decision, but not the only one. SMAPSE specialists repeat that Ofqual has a certification manual for GCSE, AS, A-Level, which sets out the rules of action for schools and colleges: the final assessment is formed as a holistic judgment, taking into account various factors.
In the process of determining the final grade will be taken into account past academic achievements?
Ofqual management notes that one of the factors that must be considered when identifying the final grade is comparing the performance of the current year with the performance of previous years.
The April 15-29 survey indicated that to standardize at the national level, past student performance at schools or colleges must be counted. At the moment, the proposal is under consideration - the final decision will be published shortly.
Is this a new grading system?
On the one hand, this is so, but the scheme is based, inter alia, on the practices and experience that existed earlier. Education specialists are obliged to form integral judgments about students, therefore, for a true assessment, the conclusions of teachers must be brought to a national academic standard.
When will students receive exam results?
Grades A-level and AS will appear on August 13, on the GCSE exam - on the 20th. The schedule has remained unchanged, so the transition to the next educational level will pass without delay. While waiting for the results, students are encouraged to think about taking tests in the fall or already start preparing for them.
The publication of certification results for the remaining qualifications is appointed by additional commissions: assessments of technical or professional specializations required for entering a university will appear simultaneously with the A-level. Ask your school for exact dates.
Will these grades be relevant for universities, colleges, or Sixth forms?
Estimates that were calculated and assigned in the summer of 2020 will have an official status, like any other year's points. All of the listed types of educational institutions will be required to accept them.
Representatives of British universities responded to the problem, confirming that universities will create possible conditions for supporting students and their progress at the stage of higher education.
How to be a student who is dissatisfied with the assigned grade?
Ofqual and examination boards are determined to evaluate candidates objectively, according to their level of knowledge. Therefore, A-Level, AS, or GCSE students who find the final grade wrong in their case will be eligible for appeal. Ofqual conducted a survey on the topic of appeals - its results will soon be available in the public domain.
What about private candidates or students in home schooling?
When schools or colleges accept applications from external candidates - students who are not students of educational institutions - their points for distance learning or self-study are given to school or college employees, after which an objective assessment of knowledge is given (taking into account the data obtained).
Ofqual and attestation commissions take students who have not been studied in institutions to consider applications. However, they need to get an assessment of the levels in the summer in order to undergo further education. The Joint Qualifications Council has published a guide for private applicants for examination centers, which sets out acceptable options.
According to the decree of the center, not all private students will receive a qualification mark this summer, as they will not be able to provide information about academic performance, which the examination center takes into account when evaluating. With high probability, “external” students will have to take exams in the fall or summer of 2021.
Ofqual turned to institutions of higher or further education with the question of enrolling private candidates this summer who did not receive an assessment due to the current situation. The answer of educational institutions is as follows: when accepting private students without a final grade, other data related to academic performance will be considered to give young people the opportunity to develop and get an education.
Can private centers conduct GCSE or A-levels exams?
No, this summer the examination commissions will not issue certification documents for GCSE, AS, A-level - it will not work to pass testing on the basis of private centers.
Does It turn out that exams in the disciplines of all modules are canceled? Or will the number of GCSE or A-Level tests simply be limited?
In summer, certification commissions will not issue documents for passing the GCSE, AS or A-Level, students will not pass any examination subjects.
What about vocational qualifications?
Many students want to get VTQ qualifications, so the main task here is to give students of these areas the freedom to move on to the next educational stage: enter a university or college, take courses in the fall, get a job or get a promotion.
A single approach is not appropriate for assessing vocational qualifications, as the VTQ range is wider.
From April 24 to May 8, Ofqual conducted a survey on VTQ assessment. Based on its results, the following conclusions can be drawn: Qualifications representing a kind of BTEC are necessary for entering a university, which means that issuing them or calculating an academic result is better by analogy with GCSE, AS or A-level.
Qualifications for employment need a demonstration of practical skills - the previously proposed calculation of the final grade is not suitable here. Ofqual will work with leading organizations to adapt the assessment system.
VTQ students are eligible to appeal after graduation. If the set score does not reflect their abilities, students will pass the exam in full-time format as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
To pass exams in professional and technical qualifications, educational institutions provide several dates throughout the year. In the current situation, additional numbers may be assigned for these purposes.
Do students need to do further work to improve grades?
Ofqual's Grading Award states that schools or colleges should not additionally set up mock exams or homework to increase the final grade. None of the students will get into an awkward situation when they can not complete the task after the closure of the educational institution.
If the work is done after the closure of educational institutions on March 20, Ofqual recommends that you carefully consider the assessment, as the data may reflect a change in performance. The reason for this is the changed context of the work or other circumstances of its implementation.
Will schools and colleges take part time courses into account?
According to the guidance provided by Ofqual, educational institutions do not need to require students to complete any exam paper to conduct student assessment. If institutions decide to review term papers completed after March 20, Ofqual recommends that the experts take stock carefully, as the data may indicate a change in performance.
What do young people do with university offers?
Grades assigned to students this summer are recognized as official, which means they are relevant, like grades of any other year. There are no reasons to stop the process of enrolling new students.
Representatives of British universities confirmed that universities are ready to provide students with support at the stage of admission and higher education.
Will universities now accept without admission conditions? Do students have to agree to admission when exams are canceled?
In the current situation, universities will not form new proposals for admission, and applicants will not feel obligated to accept them. Students will receive a formal grade for each of the exams.
If a university invites a student to enroll without entrance examinations, will the offer remain relevant?
Yes, admission without entry requirements means that the candidate has already dealt with them and the proposed place remains with the student in any case.
If a student chooses to take an exam, will he go to university next school year?
Students can take the exam, who believe that the calculated grade does not reflect the real picture of academic performance. Of course, this will happen after lifting the restrictions on educational institutions. The main condition is that these estimates must be obtained before Christmas.
Ofqual, together with the certification commissions, is developing a scheme for passing the change. University representatives promise that they will make the admission process as flexible and adaptive as possible for new students.
Students who want to understand whether passing the exams in the fall will affect their admission to the university should contact the admissions committee of the university with this question. The best treatment time is after receiving the final grade in the summer.
IGCSE and International Baccalaureate will also be canceled?
Summer exams for the international GCSE and IB are canceled: the conditions are relevant for the UK and educational institutions in other countries. Organizations involved in conducting international testing of the GCSE, published information on measures that should be implemented during the year during the qualification (based on surveys of the Ofqual center).
How will Sixth forms colleges and educational institutions deal with the fact that students will miss part of the educational process?
Now people are in unusual circumstances, so work is being done with schools, colleges, universities to adapt to updated working conditions. Together, everything is done so that students have the opportunity to successfully prepare and proceed to the next stage of education without any loss.
Will examinations be restored if schools and colleges return to their usual routine before the summer holidays?
No, on this issue a final decision has been made to abolish exams for the coming summer - quitting the quarantine regime will not affect the change in decision.