Teaching, learning and assessment FAQs

We are reviewing all FAQs on a regular basis – adding new questions as they arise, updating answers to existing questions as information changes, and removing obsolete questions. 

If you have a question which is not covered here, and you are an ASCL Member, please email coronavirus@ascl.org.uk, and we will try to find an answer and share it here. 

These FAQs are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal or professional advice. They represent ASCL’s views, but you rely on them at your own risk. For specific advice relevant to your particular circumstances, please contact your employer’s HR service or legal advisers.

Awarding organisations have told centres to submit a rank order across the cohort.

We are grateful to ASCL member and Executive Headteacher David Blow for offering some guidance to assist centres with this process. We are in continuing discussions about this with the awarding organisations and Ofqual as it presents a considerable challenge to centres.

The DfE has updated its usual guidance on writing statutory end of year reports to recognise the impact of the cancellation of this year’s summer exam series and primary assessments, and partial school closures.

Changes to requirements this year are as follows: 

  • Subject to the necessary legislation being made, the DfE intends to remove the requirement to report pupils’ attendance data for the 2019 to 2020 academic year. 
  • Following the cancellation of the 2019 to 2020 national curriculum assessments, it will not be possible to include outcomes of key stages 1 and 2 tests or teacher assessments in this year’s reports. It will also not be possible to include comparative information about the attainment of pupils of the same age in the school or nationally.
  • Calculated grades for GCSE and A level students should be reported to parents once they are available. 

The overall principle is that schools should take a proportionate approach in deciding what information to include within their pupils’ reports this year, recognising that, in many cases, it will not be possible for reports to cover the period of partial school closures, that staff may have limited availability to prepare and write reports, and that the information that they can access may also be limited. Reports must contain details of how parents can arrange a discussion about the report with their child’s teacher in a way that is appropriate to the current situation. 

The DfE has also written some additional specific guidance on reporting to parents of children at the end of key stages 1 and 2 this year. 

 

Laptops and tablets will be provided for disadvantaged families, children and young people who do not currently have access to them. Eligible people are:

  • care leavers
  • children and young people aged 0 to 19 with a social worker
  • disadvantaged year 10 pupils

Internet access will be provided through 4G hotspot devices for any of the following people who do not currently have it:
  • care leavers
  • young people aged 11 to 19 with a social worker
  • disadvantaged year 10 pupils

Young people aged 16 to 19 without a suitable device for education will be eligible for support through an expanded 16 to 19 Bursary Fund. Those offering 16 to 19 education should visit the amended government guidance on the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund which explains how schools and colleges can submit a business case to claim for additional funding and support.

Local authorities, trusts and other relevant organisations overseeing schools and social care can apply. These organisations have been sent information on how to order a device. Local authorities should work with schools to identify care leavers, and children and young people with a social worker, who need devices and internet access. Schools, parents and pupils will not be able to apply for internet access or digital devices themselves.

More information on this provision is available here
 

While some schools have had very positive experiences of fully online interaction in the pre-Easter phase of remote teaching and learning, many schools have concluded that trying to reproduce the full normal school timetable live online is neither feasible nor desirable, and are contemplating more of a ‘mixed economy’ after Easter.

Used wisely, live-streamed lessons can be one of the most useful items in the remote teaching toolkit. Positive points include the social and motivational effect for everyone of ‘real time’ contact, and the ability to keep track of who is (or isn’t) accessing and keeping up with work set. The efficiency of live explanations and Q&A can cut down on time spent in lesson preparation and marking, and this can be the most effective way of introducing new content and checking on consolidation.

However, differences in access to devices and/or broadband, and the need for students to log on at a specific time, can be stressful and exacerbate inequalities. Many pupils who have tried this have asked for more flexibility to fit the family’s routine. Long hours of screen time may not be good for either pupils or teachers. It is also vital that school leaders set up strong and well publicised protocols to safeguard pupils and staff, and that parents are aware of these.

As part of a varied diet, live online lessons have their place, but most school leaders who intend to continue with a significant amount of ‘real time’ teaching are varying their timetables and practices. Examples include reducing the percentage of live lessons; shortening lesson times; adding more short breaks; extending lunchtimes to allow for some exercise; and having a ‘day off’ periodically as ‘catch up’ and downtime.

More detailed guidance on this issue can be found here.

The May IB exams are cancelled, and a similar process of grade estimation will take place to that being proposed for GCSEs and A levels. More information is available on the ibo.org website.
 

No. The Ofqual guidance is clear that schools and colleges must not, under any circumstances, share the centre assessment grades, or the rank order of students, with students, parents or any other individuals outside the centre, before final results have been issued. Doing so could amount to malpractice,

This is to protect the integrity of teachers’ judgements, and to avoid teachers, heads of department, senior leaders or Heads of Centre being put under pressure by students and parents to submit a grade that is not supported by the evidence. Since the final grades for some or all students in a centre could be different from those submitted, it also helps to manage students’ expectations.

Students are able to request their personal data under GDPR. However, a clause in the Data Protection Act permits centres to delay the disclosure of marks until after results have been issued. 
 

The absolute mark or grade awarded in the mocks or other assessment does NOT matter.  Nor does the absolute quality of work produced in the mocks or other evidence. It is the relative mark which counts, and this will be used to create a grade distribution for that subject at that school.  That likely grade distribution will be estimated using prior attainment for the cohort and previous years' results, but not by the quality of work produced by current cohort

This should be explicitly addressed when subject leaders meet with senior leaders during the suggested process in the ASCL guidance.  Even in a mock exam which is likely to be good evidence, it may be that one teacher marks more generously than another, and so if that was not moderated then that teacher's pupils will get higher grades than they should (and consequently, another teacher's pupils will get lower grades).  

Careful consideration needs to be given to helping teachers understand and be aware of the issues here.

Ofqual published detailed information on this process on 3 April. 

If you have any questions about this process which aren’t answered in the Ofqual documents or in these FAQs, please email them to exams@ascl.org.uk.
 

Ofqual has confirmed that students taking vocational and technical qualifications, alongside or instead of GCSEs, AS and A levels will be awarded a calculated result. Students due to take assessments for Functional Skills qualifications before the end of the summer will also receive a calculated result.

Ofqual’s announcement can be found here, and guidance on awarding qualifications in summer 2020 can be found here.

The Ofqual guidance published on 3 April makes it clear that there is no requirement to set additional mock exams or homework tasks for the purposes of determining a centre assessment grade, and no student should be disadvantaged if they are unable to complete any work set after schools were closed. 

Ofqual says that, where additional work has been completed after schools and colleges were closed on 20 March, Heads of Centre should exercise caution where that evidence suggests a change in performance. In many cases this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work is done.

ASCL’s view is that, while work undertaken by students after 20 March may not contribute to their assessed grade, it is perfectly reasonable for schools and colleges to suggest that Year 11 students should be finishing their courses where possible, particularly where they plan to pursue the subject after 16.

 

The aim of the process of awarding grades is to emulate what would have happened if the pupils had actually taken exams. Unfortunately, some candidates do receive a U grade in a normal season. It is possible that if a centre might have normally expected some U grades and doesn’t award them, the external moderation process may result in some pupils obtaining a U. The Ofqual guidance indicates that it expects centres to use U grades.

The guiding principle, which applies for all students is this: teachers need to determine the most plausible grades they believe students would have obtained taking the exam. Ofqual and the awarding organisations understand how pupil characteristics and demographics contribute to the overall grade distributions.

 

Examples include:

  • sat by all, or at least the vast the majority, of pupils
  • completed by 20 March, or at least a consistent stage was reached by all pupils and seen and assessed by staff
  • access arrangement candidates had those arrangements applied
  • done under supervised conditions
Anecdote or views about a candidate's attitude are not good evidence.

It will be worth looking back to previous years to see what correlation there was between comparable marks and final grades.

The government has published new guidance for higher education providers on the support package available for universities and students. This is of direct relevance to members working in colleges, and will also be of interest to school-based members with Year 13 students. 

Key points include: 

  • There will be temporary and limited student number controls for the academic year 2020 to 2021, to ensure a fair, structured distribution of students across providers.
  • An additional 10,000 places will be made available to providers, on top of the controls, including. 5,000 for students studying nursing or allied health courses.
  • The Office for Students will consult on a new temporary condition of registration requiring English higher education providers to refrain from conduct which could have a material negative effect on the interests of students or the stability or integrity of the sector.
  • There will be an enhanced clearing process this year. Students will be able to access better and more personalised information, advice and guidance, and a new and easier-to-use means to change course/provider if, having reflected further and taking into account their awarded grades, they decide to change their firm choice. 
  • The Office for Students has published guidance for providers on the use of existing student premium funding to support students facing hardship.

Government have published guidance for early years providers about the temporary disapplications and modifications of certain elements of the EYFS statutory framework during COVID-19.

From 24 April 2020, the Government has temporarily disapplied and modified certain elements of the EYFS statutory framework for early years providers who remain open to vulnerable children and children of critical workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This will allow providers greater flexibility to respond to changes in workforce availability and potential fluctuations in demand, while still providing care that is high quality and safe. 

The temporary changes include:

  • providers are not required to meet existing learning and development requirements, but instead should use reasonable endeavours to meet them during the COVID-19 period
  • providers are not required to undertake the EYFS profile assessment in 2019/20 academic year, and accordingly local authorities are not required to collect or moderate data on this
  • providers are not required to undertake the 2 year progress check during the coronavirus (COVID-19) period
  • exceptions are allowed to the qualifications that staff hold in order to be counted in ratio requirements
  • requirements around paediatric first aid (where children aged 2-5 years old are on-site). For those caring for children aged 2-5, providers must use their ‘best endeavours’ to ensure one person with a full PFA certificate is on-site at all times when children are present. If after using best endeavours they are still unable to secure a member of staff with PFA to be on site then they must carry out a written risk assessment and ensure that someone with a current First Aid at Work or emergency PFA certification is on site at all times children are on premises.
  • There is no longer the requirement for new entrants to hold PFA certification to count in ratios during this period.  

The term ‘best endeavours’ applies to the paediatric first aid requirements.  This is a higher level requirement than ‘reasonable endeavours’.  The guidance providers further information on this.

The rest of the EYFS remains in place. Please be aware that the requirement to have someone with full PFA certification on-site remains in place where children aged 0-24 months are on-site, due to the higher safety factors for babies and children in this youngest age bracket.

Early years providers and local authorities should familiarise themselves with the details of the changes, that can be found on the usual EYFS statutory framework webpage (new guidance will be published from late afternoon on 24 April).  Government will notify providers when these temporary changes will be lifted via usual government communications.  
 

All any teacher can do is use what is available to them to assess their pupils. For example, they can use pupils’ work, knowledge of how the school performs historically in their subject, and an understanding of how prior attainment influences grading at a national level via subject transition matrices.

It may be that the statistical adjustment process operated by awarding organisations and Ofqual acts to lower these grades, in a way that does not reflect teachers’ and leaders’ views of pupils’ capabilities. The autumn series of exams, if tehre is one, could then be used to address this.
 

Ofqual’s information for Heads of Centre says the following: 

Under the circumstances, the normal arrangements for reviews of marking and appeals will not apply. We are considering what arrangements might be put in place to allow an effective appeal and will consult on proposals shortly. Centres should expect the possible grounds of appeals to be relatively narrow and based on application of the process. In submitting data to exam boards, centres should make sure that it is correct. 

Students who feel that their grades from the summer do not reflect their ability will have the opportunity to take their exams in the autumn series or in summer 2021. If they choose to do this, both grades will stand.

 

JCQ has issued guidance for centres on how to manage the CAG process for private candidates generally. ASCL would advise heads of centre to be cautious about the evidence needed to ensure private candidates can be assigned a secure grade.

The terminology used in the Ofqual guidance of grades being ‘centre assessed’ rather than ‘teacher assessed’ is important here. Parents should be made aware that the centre assessed grades are not determined by a single teacher – and that they will be subject to a stringent moderation process. 

It may also be helpful to point out the inherent unfairness in inflating grades – both for this cohort and for other cohorts. This would both devalue the grades awarded to this cohort and be unfair to students in other years who have undergone the usual assessment process. 

Remember that discussion of the grading process with parents is not permitted before the results are issued in August.

 

Ofqual’s guidance on this is as follows: “In some subjects students will have completed, or nearly completed, non-exam assessment. This will be helpful to schools and colleges in deciding each student’s grade and rank order. Where there are several subject teachers within a school or college, this work might also be helpful in standardising teachers’ approach to determining the rank order and awarding grades. Schools and colleges do not need to ask students to complete any unfinished non-exam assessment work for the purposes of grading.”

We would add that under no circumstances should schools and colleges be asking any student to come into school or college to complete coursework at this point. 
 

The government announced a range of measures on 19 April to support children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to learn from home. These measures include the following: 

  • The provision of laptops and tablets to children ‘in the most vital stages of their education, those who receive support from a social worker and care leavers’ (see the FAQ 'I understand the government is providing laptops and tablets to disadvantaged pupils. Which pupils are eligible, and how will the scheme work?' for more information about eligible children.
  • The launch of the Oak National Academy – 180 video lessons across a range of subjects, for year groups from Reception to Year 10, created by forty teachers across different schools. This resource will be accessible to both schools and parents, to complement work being developed by individual schools. 
  • New guidance for parents on how best to support their child’s education and development, including specific advice on supporting 2-4 year olds, primary-aged children, and children with SEND. 
  • The launch of a new BBC education package. 
The ASCL specialist team has also produced guidance on Leading learning during coronavirus school and college closures and on the ‘best bets’ of remote learning.
 

The autumn series is currently under discussion by DfE, Ofqual and awarding organisations. Ofqual will issue a consultation about it in due course.
 

All summer 2020 primary assessments have been cancelled. This includes all statutory teacher assessment (TA) activities for all pupils in:

  •  EYFSP (more detailed information here)
  • Key Stage 1 
  • Key Stage 2

There will also be no formal reporting and moderation requirements. 

The DfE recognises that this will create a gap in KS1 and KS2 attainment data for the 2020 (Year 2 and Year 6 cohorts of pupils). 

The DfE also recognises that, in the absence of reported test results or TA information, parents will still want information on their child’s achievements. Similarly receiving schools/teachers, for example, Year 7 teachers receiving current Year 6 pupils in September, will want some information on pupils.

The DfE is discussing what advice it can provide to schools about informal ways to feed back to parents in the absence of these statutory assessment outcomes. 

The DfE recognises there will be additional issues related to transition, including Year R  pupils who were halfway through EYFSP going into Year 1, with less evidence than usual having been collected to support judgements, and Year 6 pupils going into Year 7. To help with this, as part of our Open Data Project ASCL is developing materials to support primary teachers in producing summary reports about Year 6 pupils, which will then move seamlessly to teachers in Year 7 of the receiving school. 

Currently, the Reception Baseline Assessment is one of the assessments that is still going ahead in September 2020. The department is, however, keeping the position on all 2020/21 statutory assessments under regular review.

The DfE is currently reviewing when to publish their response to the consultation on reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile. 

Further updates are expected shortly on EYFS early adopters, and on the engagement model. 
 

This is under discussion at the moment.
 

The grades assigned to pupils through the CAG process will not be included in performance tables. Nor should they be used in any other form of accountability, such as discussions around performance management.

 

There will be a statistically based moderation process conducted by the awarding organisations and Ofqual. This is intended to ensure that the overall distribution of grades nationally is broadly in line with what would be expected from this cohort. Heads of centre need to ensure that the process conducted within their school is as thorough and fair as possible.
 
 

Ofqual have decided that Year 10 (and younger) pupils who were entered for exams will be allowed to take them. This reverses their earlier decision that the process would apply only to Year 11 pupils.

Ofqual and the awarding organisations are working on the processes needed to check the distribution of grades from each centre. The fundamental point is that a teacher needs to produce the best estimate for any given candidate, knowing what they know, if they had actually taken the exams. Unfortunately, our exam system has historically been riddled with gaps between students with different characteristics, but we cannot correct that using this system.
 

Everyone is exercised about this problem in our system, but this process cannot be used to address it. Teachers must think through, using what they know, what grade is the most plausible for each child.
 

Government and the awarding bodies recognise this issue, and are currently considering possible solutions. ASCL is part of these discussions.

The DfE released a communication about this on 4 June. 
 
In summary, this says that schools which are ready to do so are encouraged to begin delivering teaching from 1 September 2020, or whenever practicable within the first few weeks of the new school year. Those that are not ready, because of lost time, should aim to commence teaching the new content no later than the start of the summer term 2021.
 

Related Pages

September pupil level data checking exercise and provisional DfE performance indicators

  • Assessment
  • Accountability
  • Inspection
  • Ofsted
  • Key Stage 2
  • Attainment 8
  • Key Stage 4
  • GCSE
  • BTEC
  • Performance Tables
  • Progress 8

NGA Leading Governance Programmes funded by the DfE

  • Leadership
  • Governance
  • Business Leadership
  • Professional Standards
  • Governors and Trustees
  • MAT
  • Trusts