Keeley Nolan and Isobel Woodger, OCR English Subject Advisors
In the past weeks, we’ve been running online Q&A events to give you a chance to ask subject-specific questions about this year’s grading process. This followed our roundtable video, which gives suggestions on how to use support materials and answers many general grading questions. In this blog, we’ll summarise the questions asked at our English Q&A event.
For General Qualifications (GCSE, AS and A Level), a ‘range’ means that different types of evidence can be used: for example timed assessments, classwork, homework and NEA, as well as evidence of different parts of the specification being covered such as 19th century prose, unseen text analysis or writing skills. The JCQ Guidance has much more on this.
While this evidence is not being prescribed by exam boards, it does need to be as consistent as possible for all your students, unless there is a good reason why the work would not be representative, e.g. a student or students missed more content than their peers because of self-isolation, or they have experienced adverse circumstances. This is to ensure that your grading judgements are consistent for your students in your centre.
You’ll need evidence to support that a student is working at the grade you have determined they deserve. This evidence is not being prescribed by exam boards, but does need to be as consistent as possible for all your students, unless they have experienced adverse circumstances. This is to ensure that your grading judgements are consistent for your students in your centre.
Please check the JCQ publication A guide to the special consideration process to see the types of adverse circumstances a student might experience in a normal year of examinations.
The range of evidence needs to be as consistent as possible for all your students to ensure that your grading judgements are consistent. You should not be ‘cherry picking’ the evidence used for individual students in order to give them the best grade.
If, as a centre, you decide that you are using five timed assessments as part of your evidence base, you should consider performance in all five assessments for each student unless there is a good reason why the work would not be representative. For example, if a student missed more content than their peers because of self-isolation or they have experienced adverse circumstances, you should keep a record of the rationale to explain why the evidence range for some students differs.
There is no hierarchy or preference given to particular types of evidence. For example, timed assessments will not be considered as more important than classwork in determining a grade. The important thing to consider is the quality of each piece of evidence and how representative it is of students’ performance.
It is likely that recent work will be more representative of performance, though this is not always the case. This is more likely to be a factor when considering work undertaken in Years 10 or 12 compared to work in Years 11 and 13, rather than work produced a couple of weeks apart.
No. Awarding organisations are not moderating the A Level NEA this year. While you might choose to use completed or partially completed NEA as one source of evidence of student attainment, there is no requirement to do this and the work will not be being assessed as it normally would be. You do not have to offer students the right to an internal appeal of the mark by the centre before the submission of teacher assessed grades.
You can choose to use the NEA, whether partially or fully completed, as one source of evidence but there is no requirement for you to do so. If NEA is used, it does not need to be given the same weighting as it has in a standard year. The weight you give any piece of evidence, including any NEA, will depend on the quality of that piece of evidence and how representative it is of students’ attainment.
There is no requirement for you to use NEA as a source of evidence. If you have decided that any NEA will form part of the range of evidence for your cohort, you should make a note to indicate that this evidence wasn’t available for this particular student to justify why their range of evidence will differ. The student should not be penalised for this.
Students’ grades should only be based on the evidence you have available for them. It should not be based on what they may or may not have achieved in the NEA. If the other available evidence provides you with enough content and skills coverage to determine a grade, you do not need to find other sources of evidence.
You can use the 2019 grade boundaries for any NEA evidence if this will be helpful for you. We’d also recommend looking at the grading exemplar work. Equally, you can continue with marks. The NEA is only one of the pieces of evidence you’ll be using to determine overall grade. Grades should be based on your holistic judgement of all the evidence, using the grade descriptors and grading exemplar work to help you. It is not necessary to assign an individual grade to every part of the specification.
This is where the JCQ grade descriptors and exemplar work should be used to help you gauge the grade your students are working at. It’s perfectly legitimate to give an A* grade where you have a mix of A*/A grade evidence if, on balance and looking at the evidence as a whole, students are more closely aligned to an A* performance.
November 2020 was an atypical year. The last ‘regular’ exam series was 2019. Use the grade boundaries as a guide, but do remember, it is a holistic look at the evidence for the student. There isn’t a requirement to use the additional assessment materials and turn the result into a grade, the mark might suffice when compared to grade descriptors and exemplification.
You can choose how you run any assessments this year for the purpose of helping you to determine your students’ grades. There’s no stipulation that assessments need to be done under exam conditions and the DfE and Ofqual guidance makes it clear that the aim is not to replicate a standard exam series. You can run open book assessments if you wish and include these in your range of evidence. As a centre, you may wish to determine whether these texts should be clean copies or how to allow for the use of annotated copies within your marking of assessments. If you’ll be using the OCR mark schemes, it’s worth bearing in mind that they have been produced in situations where candidates have not had access to the texts. If you decide that your students can have their texts available, you need to keep that in mind when you’re marking the work. The important thing would be to ensure that your marking is as consistent across all of your students, whether or not you decide to let them have their texts.
You should submit your centre’s Spoken Language endorsement grades in the usual way using Interchange or EDI by 18 June 2021. Please also compete and return the Head of Centre NEA declaration to us by 18 June 2021.The endorsement grades can be shared with students before grades are submitted.
Marks for SPaG (AO4) will be relevant for assessments you undertake in Shakespeare and/or 19th century prose. If possible, it is best to stick to the standard mark scheme (4 marks for AO4 in Shakespeare and 19th century prose) rather than the mark scheme which was amended when it was envisaged that the 2021 exams would go ahead (6 marks for AO4 in Shakespeare).
Taking this approach means that you will likely have more evidence of students’ ability to use spelling, punctuation and grammar if you are a centre who has covered both Shakespeare and 19th century prose. However, the most important thing is that you take a consistent approach across your centre. Timed assessments are only one potential source of evidence and it is possible to gauge students’ ability in relation to AO4 through classwork, homework and other types of evidence.
If you have any questions about this summer’s assessment and would like to talk to us, please get in touch at OCRenglish@ocr.org.uk or follow us on twitter at @OCR_English. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive email information about English resources and support.
All advice and guidance provided by awarding bodies regarding arrangements for summer 2021 undergoes ratification by the JCQ (Joint Council for Qualifications). This is to ensure that awarding bodies provide consistent information to centres. The content of the above blog is currently being reviewed by the JCQ and is therefore potentially subject to some change in wording.
Keeley is a Lead Subject Advisor at OCR and is responsible for a portfolio of English qualifications including both GCSEs. Keeley joined the English team in 2014, leading on the development of GCSE English Language and supporting first teaching of the new specification. Prior to joining OCR, Keeley spent two years teaching abroad. In her spare time she enjoys travelling, reading and swimming.