Exam Situation Letter 24th March 2020

23rd March 2020

Dear Parents, Carers and Students,

As I am sure you are aware, there has been an update today to the information issued by the government in relation to how grades will be applied for students in year 11 and year 13 in place of this summer’s exams.

While this information has started to address some of the questions that schools, parents and students have, there are still many aspects that have yet to be confirmed. Right now, there is a lot of information out there and not all of it is very clear so I hope that this letter clarifies the situation so far for you. I have listed below the key questions that many parents and students are asking and the current response to those:

  1. Will any type of exams be taking place this summer (if it is not a GCSE or A level exam, would it still be running)?

The government has made it very clear that all types of exams are cancelled for this summer’s examination season across all types of qualification.

  • What if the school is able to open before the end of the summer term, will exams be scheduled then?

Because there is no certainty of when we are able to re-open, exams will remain cancelled whether we are able to open again before the end of this academic year or not.

  • How will my child’s grades be calculated for the various subjects they study?
  • While there is some initial guidance on this, at this point, schools don’t know exactly how these grades will be calculated. The latest government guidance states clearly that students are not being awarded predicted grades. You may have seen contradictions to this in what has been reported in the media but this is taken directly from the most recent government guidance.
  • What we do know is that calculated grades will take into account a ‘broad range of evidence’ including non-exam assessment, teacher assessment, mock results, prior attainment data.
  • We do not yet know how this data will be used to calculate grades as Ofqual is currently working on this. The education secretary has clearly stated they want to make sure no student is unfairly disadvantaged by the change to how grades are allocated this year so there will be quite a bit of work to do for Ofqual and exam boards in conjunction with schools to establish how this will happen.
  • Can subject teachers or the school give my son/daughter any idea of the grade they will be awarded?

Unfortunately, this is not something we are able to do. Because we don’t know how grades will be calculated, we have no way of knowing what their grade will be with any degree of certainty.

  • When will schools know how these grades will be calculated?

At this point, we don’t know. It is of course a priority for all schools including Ferndown but we are having to be led by the government, Ofqual and the exam boards on this. There is quite a lot of work to be done to make this as fair and consistent a process as possible for all students so we don’t expect this to be a quick decision. Once we know more, we will of course share this information with you.

  • Is it true that my son/daughter can sit an exam next year? Do they have to do this? When will these exams take place?

The government has stated that exams will be available next year for students who wish to sit them. They are optional. We do not yet know when these will take place, as we cannot be certain when schools will reopen. We also do not yet know how these exams will be coordinated and will wait for further guidance on this.

  • What if my son/daughter is unhappy with the grade that they are awarded?

If your son/daughter 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 in the new school year (that starts in September). Students will also have the option to sit their exams in the summer of 2021.

  • What about vocational and technical qualifications?

In many cases, students will already have completed modules or non-exam assessment that could provide evidence to award a grade.

  • My son/daughter was working on a piece of non-exam assessment/coursework that was due in over the next couple of weeks. Should they complete it?

If your son/daughter is able to complete this piece of work via distance learning by the deadline allocated then they should continue to do so.

  1. Is there any additional pieces of work my son/daughter can complete that can be used to go towards their grade?

Please consult with your child’s subject teacher. They may have all of the evidence that they require, on the other hand they may want another piece of assessment to help them decide between two grades, this will particularly be the case if it is a missed assessment that the rest of the cohort have already completed. For practical subjects like art, photography and textiles please complete your books as directed to by your subject teachers.

  1. Will the past performance of the school be taken into account when devising the calculated grade?

Ofqual will consider carefully how to ensure the process is as fair as possible, which is likely to include considering measures that reflect how much progress a student would have been likely to have made at the school they are attending. This is great news for Ferndown Upper School students as last year our students made +0.63 Progress 8 for GCSE and +0.23 value added for Y13.

  1. Should my son/daughter continue to complete the work set for them by their teachers online?

The current situation is still uncertain so we wish students to carry on completing their lessons and tasks for the time being. We also want to ensure that all year 11 and year 13 students are as best placed as possible in terms of their knowledge and understanding when they start their next steps beyond GCSE and A level, whatever they may be. What they learn now will help to prepare them for these next steps and in the event that they may wish to sit an exam next year in this subject, will have kept their knowledge and understanding up to date so we recommend that students complete work that has been set.

Once we are more certain of how these ‘calculated’ grades will be generated we will inform you and we may then stop Y11 and Y13 lessons and move to preparation for A Level tasks for Y11 and for preparation for University or Apprenticeship tasks for Y13. We think we will have enough information from Ofqual to make this decision by the start of April.

Further information can be found by clicking on the link below:

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

We know how hard your sons/daughters worked in preparing for their exams and that many students and parents will understandably be anxious about how grades will be allocated in place of summer exams. We are working with the information we have but at the moment, we are still waiting on further information from Ofqual and the exam boards to know exactly what information they want and how this will be used.

Please do be assured that when we have further information to share, we will update you as soon as we can. I hope you and your families are staying safe and well at this time.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Jones