It has been a tumultuous year for schools. Repeated closures and the sudden introduction of remote learning has put pressure on teachers, students and parents alike. Now – according to the latest government announcement – A Level and GCSE exams are to be replaced with ‘teacher assessment’. Rather than gathering in large exam halls to sit identical test papers this summer, students across the country will be awarded grades by their teachers, based on their school performance.
Teachers may use papers set by exam boards such as AQA and OCR in order to assess their students. Alternatively, schools and colleges could design their own tests, or use other methods to evaluate their pupils’ performance, such as written assignments or timed essays.
A lot remains to be decided and many questions are still unanswered. Unsurprisingly, many teenagers – together with many parents and teachers – are feeling anxious about the uncertainty. A lot rides on GCSE and A Level results.
However, there are a range of practical steps you can take to ensure your child is in the best possible position once summer arrives. Based on what we know so far, here are five tips on how to prepare for teacher assessment:
National exams are not going ahead. What’s more, it is currently unclear whether students will be obliged to sit any form of exam in order to receive a GCSE or A Level grade from their teacher. However, a joint consultation run by Ofqual – the exam watchdog – and the Department for Education proposed that teacher assessment should only take ‘evidence-based decisions’ when allocating grades.
Completing some practice exam papers, therefore, could be a valuable use of teenagers’ time. As well as providing them with an extensive range of sample questions, mock papers will also alert them to areas of improvement and topics they do not fully understand. There are other benefits too. If pupils are presented with written assessments come the summer, they will have already built up their exam technique and time management skills, helping them stand out from the crowd.
Designated study time & space
As Lockdown 3 drags on, it is hard to sustain a sense of routine. However, sticking to a timetable makes it easier for teenagers to keep on top of their school work – and retain a sense of normality. Many schools are running lessons at set times, with some even hosting virtual assemblies. However, it is easy to let bedtimes slip in lockdown, and school screen time can effortlessly merge into social screen time.
How students perform in class and school assignments could well affect their teacher allocated grade. Designated study time, therefore – where teenagers can focus on their work in a distraction-free zone – is crucial. If space at home is an issue, noise cancelling headphones could also be an avenue to explore.
New study materials
The pandemic has prompted a surge in study materials aimed at school children of all ages. While the BBC has launched ‘Lockdown Learning’ – broadcasting school lessons on television – it has also published useful GCSE revision guides. Meanwhile, Khan Academy and Physics Online are popular with A Level STEM students, and language learners can enjoy free smartphone apps such as Duolingo.
If you are concerned your child is spending too much of the day staring at a screen, physical revision guides are a useful resource. CGP workbooks are particularly popular, and Pearson Edexcel guides are also very well reviewed.
In a nutshell, anything that builds teenagers’ understanding and skills outside the classroom will shine through during school lessons – and could boost their overall grade.
Many parents are concerned the quality of their children’s education has deteriorated as a result of lockdown. While schools are trying their best in very challenging conditions, it is hard to recreate a classroom – with the group discussions and immediate teacher support – via a screen. Private tuition, tailored to pupil’s individual needs, could help teenagers stay motivated and learning during this tricky period. If you would like to arrange a free consultation, please click here.
Speak to the school
A huge question mark hangs over this year’s GCSE and A Level qualifications. However, there is little to be gained from second guessing government policy. Parents will be relieved to hear that Ofqual’s controversial algorithm, used to moderate grades, will not be used in 2021, according to an announcement by the Secretary of State for Education. (In summer 2020, the government was forced to perform a U-turn over the use of the algorithm, after nearly 40% of A Level marks were downgraded.)
Don’t be afraid to contact your child’s school and find out what is happening. An open dialogue with teachers is likely to ease your mind – and provide more information than the government’e next press briefing.