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Thoughts from the network: Teacher assessments and short course papers

Welcome to the first in a regular series of articles where we share the thoughts of SSAT members on national developments happening in education at the moment.  

This week, our members offer their views on teacher assessments and the idea of short course papers. In this article, we share a selection of their views – you can also read additional responses from the network. 

If you are a headteacher or senior leader in an SSAT member school and would like to get actively involved and share your views on future policy developments, get in touch with Alex Galvin, Senior Education Lead, via your school’s Relationship Manager. 

Ensuring fairness 

School leaders in the network are concerned that it will be difficult to find an assessment arrangement that takes into account the huge range of experiences young people have had this year. 

“Part of the problem is that year 11 have had a very mixed learning experience depending on whether they were in an area with a high incidence of COVID and so it may be necessary to provide a range of assessment tasks so that schools can select an assessment that is going to provide a fair and reliable indication of students’ knowledge/skills. 

“I always thought the COVID-effect would be far greater on this cohort of GCSE and Alevel students than the class of 2020 and so it is proving to be the case.” 

 

Thoughts on teacher assessment 

There are mixed views about the use of teacher assessment. While many people feel that it was the only viable option this year, concerns remain about ensuring that schools apply consistent standards to their decisionmaking. 

“The term ‘centre assessed grade’ (CAG) is preferable to ‘teacher assessed grade’ (TAG) because the grade is the outcome of a process involving a range of colleagues and procedures within the centre, rather than a simple reflection of one teacher’s assessment.” 

 “Teacher assessment has the following problems: 

  • Subject to human bias as teachers have an innate and understandable desire for their students to do well! 
  • Impossible to moderate as we found out to our cost last summer 
  • Creates huge amount of extra work for school staff at all levels 
  • Can put schools in difficult positions with parents, (usually not those from disadvantaged backgrounds).” 

“Good decision to go with teacher assessments, particularly as we had experience of a teacher assessment methodology last year.” 

Thoughts on the idea of short paper examinations 

Many people welcome the idea of some kind of externally-set paper, but there are questions over how it will work in practice. 

“… we are very much in favour of externally set papers but there are several issues that need to be addressed (clarity will no doubt be provided in due course). Gavin Williamson’s letter states that the process will ‘allow students to be assessed based on what they have learnt, rather than against content they have not had a chance to study.’ As students will have studied/focused on particular aspects of a syllabus to varying depths and in differing sequences, how this will be taken into account in an externally set standardised paper?” 

“My personal view is that if we’re going to have access to externally set papers, they should be mandatory for all.”  

Managing appeals 

There are concerns about the suggestion that every student will have the opportunity to appeal the grade they are awarded and the practicalities of how this would be managed. 

“My concern would be that without a rigorous and yet limited appeals process that protects teachers and school leaders, the awarding of results for 2021 has the potential to take up an inordinate amount of time in autumn 2021, impacting yet further on another cohort.” 

My initial concerns are about the appeals process and the potential for completely unsubstantiated appeals and the workload and potential conflict this could create.” 

Looking further ahead 

The current situation has prompted wide-ranging discussion about the purpose of assessment and how students’ achievements are most effectively measured. 

“This is an opportunity for the educational sector to regenerate its approach to assessment and qualifications. We strongly disagree with Simon Lebus that it is important for all stakeholders that we return to normal practice for assessment as soon as we can. This makes the assumption that current practice is best practice. We believe in the holistic development of every student’s attitudes, skills and knowledge. Our assessment system should measure what we value, not value what we measure.” 

Read the full paper which includes additional areas of discussion and further comments. 

Your opportunity to get involved 
If you are a headteacher or senior leader in an SSAT member school and would like to get actively involved and share your views on future policy developments, get in touch with Alex Galvin, Senior Education Lead, via your school’s Relationship Manager. 

 

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