A message from Simon Sharp, CIEA Chair

Simon SharpAs the new academic year starts, there is a lot to reflect on from this summer’s ‘results season’. As all those working in our assessment system seek to digest what has occurred and learn the relevant lessons, it is also important to try and take the positives from the situation we now find ourselves in.  For me, one major positive is that the ‘crisis’ has opened for scrutiny the competing hopes, assumptions and expectations that underpin our system and have long been unquestioned and taken for granted. This year the balance between them has been turned upside down.

Perhaps the biggest casualty has been trust in all aspects of the assessment system – the confidence that candidates, parents, teachers, politicians and the wider public had in our system of public examinations and assessments has been seriously undermined. Enquiries will be held seeking to explain how the summer 2020 scenario occurred, and where responsibility for each contributing aspect of the ‘crisis’ is apportioned.

However, the more important focus must surely be on how to rebuild that trust, starting from now. That is going to be a huge task, covering everything from the political oversight of the entire system, Ofqual and the awarding bodies’ roles in developing and implementing the now discredited statistical standardisation model, through to enhancing the robustness of local assessment decisions by teachers and lecturers. On the latter, it is essential that the credibility of local assessment decisions is enhanced, to avoid further accusations of unwarranted ‘grade inflation’ across the system.

An equally important task to rebuilding trust will be planning ahead for the 2021 examinations and assessments. The disruption that all year groups from Year 1 through to Year 12 have experienced to their learning programmes is substantial. There also appears every possibility of further dislocation in the coming year - be it national or localised. Simply moving the dates of test, exams and assessments or trimming sections from syllabuses may not be enough to adequately – and yes, fairly - deal with the variation of teaching and learning that this year’s cohorts of learners will have undertaken.

As the debates on both rebuilding trust and planning for 2021 get underway, the CIEA will be looking to contribute, as we feel we have positive solutions to offer to our assessment system. We will be holding a series of webinars in the autumn term to explore some of the key assessment issues and how we believe we can help build a more robust, better balanced system that can deal with the changed circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Simon Sharp, CIEA Chair