Overworked staff need clear guidance around teacher-assessed grades this year

20 Mar 2021, 7:45

Staff don’t need to provide cartloads of evidence for teacher-assessed grades, just enough to form a professional judgment, says Jill Duffy

It is widely agreed that teachers and college leaders are facing an unprecedented workload.

Not only are you welcoming students back, identifying learning gaps and doing Covid testing, but results for your students taking key vocational qualifications (like our Cambridge Technicals) this summer will be based on teacher-assessed grades.  

Time and again when we listen to teachers and their teacher associations workload comes up as the headline issue.

The issue isn’t new, but with the impact of the pandemic there is a real question as to whether there are enough hours in a day to get everything done.

‘Consistent guidance needed’

It will come as no surprise that there are no simple “light touch” approaches to assessment – what we all do must meet the high bar needed to secure expectations of rigour and fairness for all students, regardless of the qualifications they are taking.

And much will, inevitably, fall to teachers and their colleges to exercise their professional judgment in generating teacher-assessed grades and to put in place the necessary quality assurance.

Nevertheless, it’s important you are supported with guidance that is clear, as consistent as possible across exam boards, and that meets regulatory demands.

We’re doing everything in our power to ensure that the guidance we produce will be simple and timely. So we are working to get guidance out to you about generating teacher-assessed grades for our Cambridge Technicals as well as our Cambridge Nationals next week.  

But at the same time, we can only go as fast as decisions are confirmed by policymakers and regulators. There is an Ofqual technical consultation about the vocational framework which closed just last week.

We can only go as fast as decisions are confirmed by policymakers and regulators

We know Ofqual is working hard to publish the outcomes next week, which is when we plan to publish fuller guidance on how grades for our key vocational qualifications will be arrived at.

‘Some tips for now’

But there are some things we think we can and should say now about Cambridge Technicals, our popular post-16 qualifications.

For students completing this year we will be asking for grades at qualification, not unit, level. This is a change from the approach we took in 2020 and should help to reduce your workload.

Our approach will be to allow you as much flexibility as possible, just as with A-levels, in identifying sufficient evidence by which to judge a student’s performance.

There is no requirement for the evidence to cover all of the content of a qualification. We don’t expect cartloads of evidence, virtual or otherwise  ̶  just enough, and no more, to inform a professional judgment.

The evidence you use can come from multiple sources and in different formats. For example, a recorded discussion would be viewed as a useful piece of evidence.

Your professional judgment will be supported by our performance descriptors, which indicate the level of performance required across the qualification.

There will also be no requirement to submit work for moderation. We are continuing to accept your requests for moderation of Cambridge Technicals units until March 29 and we will conduct virtual external moderation visits, where a college wishes, until the end of April.

We will allow teacher-assessed grades for your students who intended to complete a smaller qualification this year and have arrangements in place, so they can “top up” to a larger qualification next year.

‘Updates coming soon’

We will be asking you to submit your teacher-assessed grades to us by June 18 this year using the same grade submission system that we used in summer 2020. We’ll provide training, step-by-step guidance and FAQs as a refresher.

I hope this gives you some idea of the approach we will be taking and reassurance that we are committed to supporting you in the process of generating and submitting your teacher-assessed grades this summer.

Look out for our updates in the coming week. And we are, of course, always happy to hear your comments and concerns.

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