A message from Simon Sharp, CIEA Chair

Simon SharpFor the third newsletter in a row, I must start by hoping that all our members and their families are safe and well. By the time you read this article, we will be well into month three of the lockdown. The original timescale for starting to reopen schools, colleges and training organisations was 1st June, but any widespread return of learners – of whatever age - from that date is simply not going to happen. Concerns about personal safety for anybody attending any type of buildings or other settings remain paramount and continue to override other considerations. It looks increasingly likely that anything like normality in education and training provision will have to await September at the earliest.

Despite the uncertainty, at least the arrangements for awarding this summer’s results for all types of qualifications have now been put into the public domain by Ofqual and the regulators in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Any centre with candidates entered for an assessment this summer has a significant contribution to make towards the results its candidates receive. For GCSE and GCE, staff providing centre-assessed grades and rank orders of candidates within grades will face particular challenges. Similarly, providing estimations of performance to enable calculated results across the full range of vocational qualifications will place unprecedented demands on staff in colleges and training providers.

To ensure the assessment information staff are providing to their awarding bodies is accurate and the professional judgements on which it is based are sound and stand up to scrutiny, it is essential that all institutions have in place robust assessment arrangements. It would be good to hear how colleagues are dealing with these challenges – be that with GCSE and A level or for the wide range of vocational qualifications. We really would like to hear how this is going and what processes have been put in place.

Do please share your experiences via administratorciea@herts.ac.uk.

By relying on internal assessments to a greater extent than any previous year in recent history, this summer’s results will undoubtedly be the focus of much attention. Mick Walker, our Vice Chair, has published an article on the implications for our assessment systems of this one-off opportunity to demonstrate the merits of internal assessment. Members have a chance to hear these views and contribute to the debate via a webinar led by Mick with contributions from Tim Oates of Cambridge Assessment and Stephen Holmes of Ofqual on Tuesday 9th June. For details see the CIEA Events page.

And while much attention will rightly focus on 2020, attention is increasingly turning to what the lockdown means for the cohort of students taking their assessments in 2021. Given the amount of face-to-face tuition time they have missed out on compared with previous cohorts, there is a major debate to be had as to how our assessments take into account what I call the ‘learning shortfall’. Reconciling the expectation for ‘comparable outcomes’ year-on-year with the reality of the truncated learning experience of the 2021 cohort will, I believe, require some innovative thinking and new regulatory requirements. We can all expect to be hearing a lot more about this over the next few months. The reverberations for our assessment systems will continue long after COVID-19 is no longer dominating our daily diet of news.

I hope all our members enjoy a safe summer.

Simon Sharp,

Chair, CIEA