Sunderland education leaders say pandemic should lead to national rethink on GCSE assessment

Education leaders in Sunderland believe the pandemic could act as a watershed moment in evaluating how we assess student attainment.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 3:23 pm
Southmoor Academy student Nieve Howat, 16, believes being assessed over the two year period of her course was a "fairer" reflection of her performance than a final exam.

The impact of the Covid pandemic has seen linear exams cancelled for a second consecutive year to be replaced by ongoing teacher assessment.

While this has seen an inflation of student grades some education leaders believe rather than questioning the validity of results awarded, it could potentially lead to a national rethink on an assessment process which isn’t so dependent on how students perform in a two hour exam.

Deputy headteacher at Southmoor Academy, Sammy Wright, said: “Using a period of ongoing assessment may provide a better reflection of student performance.

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Photo 6 - Southmoor Academy deputy headteacher Sammy Wright believes it is "inevitable" the government will have to relook at the future awarding of grades.

“If you put ten kids in for an exam there’s always a chance that two will mess up on the day.

“Hopefully the pandemic can act as a stimulus to look at a greater balance between final exams and continuous assessment."

With the Covid induced change in assessment process and the inflation of grades in the last two years, Mr Wright believes there will be an “inevitable” change in how grades are awarded.

He added: “After the pandemic there’s going to have to be change as it would be unfair to judge the performance of these students against future students who are assessed differently.

Sandhill View Academy headteacher Joanne Maw believes the pandemic provides an opportunity to reflect on a more balanced way of assessing student attainment.

“There's going to have to be a shift in the grade boundaries to be in line with what has happened in the last two years.”

Recent years have seen a shift in emphasis towards final examinations with many subjects seeing the removal of coursework and modular exams.

Sandhill View Academy headteacher Joanne Maw said: “The pandemic provides an opportunity to learn from what has happened over the last two years and reflect on how we assess students.

“The key to anything is balance and there’s a place for examinations combined with school centred assessment.

“There’s a lot of pressure on students with examinations in the final few weeks of school and this could be staggered over a longer period of time.”

It’s a sentiment shared by students.

Thea Sloanes, 16, who achieved six 9s and four 8s, said: “I think being assessed over a two-year period is better than everything resting on one exam and is a better reflection of a student's performance.”

Fellow Southmoor Academy student, Nieve Howat, 16, added: “Exams can be very damaging for people and many students such as myself suffer from exam anxiety and could simply perform badly on the day.

“Assessing people over a two year period is a more well rounded and fairer reflection of their ability.”