Update from Simon Sharp, CIEA Chair

Simon SharpThis is now the fourth consecutive newsletter in which I have started by hoping that all our members and their families are safe and well. However, the last month has seen the first tentative steps towards getting younger learners back into schools. Recent announcements about the imminent easing of lockdown restrictions, particularly the move to a 1m social distancing requirement, mean that far more planning is now possible for all settings for September, which is the earliest at which something like ‘normality’ will return to our education and training system.

In terms of this summer’s results for GCSE, A Level and an extensive range of vocational qualifications, the assessment information on which the awards will be based is now with the awarding bodies. There will undoubtedly be some trepidation – from staff as well as candidates themselves - about the outcomes from the statistical procedures to be used. The awarding bodies and Ofqual have made clear that centres’ ‘estimated grades’ are only one part of the evidence to be taken into account when determining results. In the lead up to the publication of results, I think we can anticipate some further publicity to explain the rationale for the processes being used, thereby managing the expectations of candidates, parents and the wider public. The key message must be that as far as possible, this year’s cohort of candidates has been treated fairly compared with those who have gone before or will follow.

The evaluation of the summer 2020 arrangements is going to be crucially important for two reasons. First, because of what it tells us all about the integrity of the internal assessment information supplied by staff in centres. Second, because attention is already turning to what assessment arrangements need to be put in place for summer 2021, given the significant disruption to learning programmes that the cohort of candidates has experienced. The inevitable clamour to ‘return to normal service’ will need to be balanced with some innovative thinking and possibly new regulatory requirements. Already there is speculation about putting back exams and assessment by two or three months, to allow time for ‘catch-up’.

As the CIEA, we will look to contribute to the professional debates on both of these issues. On the first, the webinar hosted on 9th June led by Mick Walker raised some important issues about the importance of this summer’s assessment procedures for public perceptions of internal assessment. On the second, we will feed into the work Ofqual and other organisations will undertake to prepare the system for 2021. We will look to provide further webinars on relevant topics and look forward to the continued support and feedback from members. Hearing about your experiences this year will be particularly helpful in shaping our responses in the months ahead.

I hope all our members enjoy a safe summer.

Simon Sharp

Chair, CIEA