Following consultation with members in January 2021, here is the final draft of the submission made to Ofqual setting out the EBEA’s view on awarding grades fairly in summer 2021:
To: Kim Cheshire, Senior Manager, Ofqual
From: The Economics, Business and Enterprise Association (EBEA)
Subject: Ofqual consultation on awarding grades in summer 2021
The EBEA is an independent professional association, registered with the Charities Commission, which represents the interests of teachers, lecturers and others with an interest in economics, business and enterprise education. Members have a range of views on the consultation questions and will make these known to you through their individual responses. This email is the EBEA’s corporate response based on discussions with a range of members, including teachers, managers, examiners and former HMI.
The EBEA supports the proposal that teaching should go on for as long as possible in the summer term so that students are best prepared for the next stage in their education, training or employment. The EBEA agrees assessment should be based on what students understand, know and can do rather than any attempt to predict what grades might have been without the loss of learning suffered through the pandemic.
The EBEA supports the use of externally set tests and believes these should be compulsory, taken, if possible, in schools and colleges under exam conditions but elsewhere if this is not possible. The EBEA feels that this will help to maintain the rigour and status of qualifications and provide additional motivation to students throughout the remainder of their courses. However, in order for the tests to be fair they need to take account of the different amounts of face to face teaching that students have experienced during their courses both between institutions and within them. There are several different ways this might be achieved but the EBEA believes the best approach would be to notify students in advance of the areas of the specifications they will be assessed on. These will need to be agreed with individual institutions and should include a certain minimum proportion of the specifications. Students should be reminded at the start of the tests of the sections they need to answer if they are presented with a choice. The number and length of the tests should be kept to an absolute minimum. The precise nature of the tests should be left to the awarding bodies in consultation with teachers.
The EBEA is in favour of including other forms of teacher-based assessments in addition to the end of course tests, possibly up to a maximum of 40%, depending on the circumstances of individual students. Ofqual and the awarding bodies should specify the types of evidence which are acceptable and advise on how they should be used. The EBEA supports the case for awarding body moderation and quality assurance of the processes schools and colleges use to arrive at final grades.
While the EBEA is strongly in favour of continuing teaching as long as possible into the summer term and using externally set tests, we have very grave concerns about the pressure on teachers and the additional workload involved in marking the tests within a very tight timescale. Concerns were also expressed about the expertise of many teachers in accurately assessing exam type questions without considerable training and guidance. The EBEA therefore suggests that Ofqual should consider the possibility of using external examiners to assist in the marking of test questions. This could be organised in the usual way by awarding bodies or, alternatively, the funding could be given to schools and colleges to pay for external examiners. While this may appear to be a return to the exams that the Dfe announced would be cancelled, it would, in reality, be very different from the pre 2020 system: students would be made more aware of what they would be tested on, tests would be shorter and there would additional centre based assessment. The decision to cancel examinations was made with little consultation with schools and colleges and the EBEA believes that there is a groundswell of support for external assessment which would reduce the burden on teachers at the end of a very stressful year and make for a more rigorous and fairer system at arriving at grades.
I hope that these comments are helpful in shaping your thinking on assessing students this summer and wish you all the best in these very difficult circumstances.
Jo Bentham, Chair of the EBEA Chair@ebea.org.uk
David Butler, Advocacy lead, EBEA firstname.lastname@example.org