School Update – January 2021

Despite the constant questions and lack of certainty, last week was relatively quiet from the government. You will no doubt be following the many news articles and statements from the Prime Minister, Health Secretary, and Education Secretary. As we approach February Half Term in three weeks time, all we know is that the DfE will provide two weeks notice prior to any change in the status of Schools. 

Understandably, this throws up many challenges, none more so than for our examination classes in Year 11 and Year 13. The constant advice for them is to keep learning, follow the curriculum and remain focussed. We await further clarification from Ofqual in the coming weeks. 

For all families in these exam classes, please remember that we are continually assessing the best way to ensure all students can be successful. We have a number of plans in place that are predicated on many unknowns; such as the return to School, the evidence required for a grade, and the processes to fulfil these requirements. Whatever the outcome form the DfE and Ofqual, we will provide prior communication so that you are all advised of the in-school procedure and will not be disadvantaged as a consequence. 

Ofqual Consultation
Should the 45 page consultation prove too much, and my eight page summary last week, the main points are summarised below:

  • Grades will be based on teacher/centre assessment. Exam boards will provide advice on a standardised approach between schools, what evidence should be collected, and how schools should quality assure internally. Grades will be submitted as late as possible to maximise the time for catch-up teaching and ongoing assessment.
  • Teacher assessment will be based on the current, ongoing performance of students; rather than a hypothetical prediction of what students may have got had exams run as normal; or what students would have got had the pandemic not disrupted their learning. It’s not clear how evidence will translate into a grade.
  • Exam boards may provide some external assessment tasks, which would be based on exam paper questions. DfE and Ofqual are consulting on whether these should be mandatory or not, whether teachers could set their own assessments instead, the percentage of the course that the tasks should cover, and the timing of the external assessment.
  • Schools will be expected to provide internal quality assurance, with support and advice from the exam boards.
  • Exams will also provide external quality assurance, both during the process of determining grades, and once grades are submitted. If the exam boards are satisfied with the internal quality assurance of a school’s judgement, it is unlikely to change grades. A formula or algorithm will not be used to standardise results.
  • Students will have the right to appeal grades, which is currently being proposed as being led by schools and colleges in the first instance, before being escalated to exam boards.

COVID-19 Lateral Flow Testing
The announcement that ongoing testing for close contacts has been paused does not change the ongoing testing for staff. In fact, this testing has now been upped to twice weekly. We will continue to test students in our key worker and vulnerable groups also. Students will be tested on their return to School and so our plans remain in place for the time being. 

Student Health
Please can all parents continue to report to School if your son is unwell and unable to participate in learning. This must be via the main school office as would be expected if we were in School. We can then communicate to staff to inform them in our normal way.