Earlier this month, the government announced that the 2021 summer exam series would not be taking place. They have launched a consultation about how children and young people should be assessed if exams cannot be used. The key points of the proposal are:
- Grades will be based on teacher assessment
- Guidance will be provided to teachers on how best to do this
- Assessments will be made at the end of the academic year at about the same time as students would have been sitting exams
- Exam boards will be asked to produce sets of papers to help with this assessment. The content and scope of these papers,. when they are released and whether they are mandatory has not yet been determined.
- Where non-exam work (e.g. coursework) already forms a part of the final grade, this should continue to be used.
- There will be internal and external scrutiny and quality assurance of grades awarded.
For a link to the full consultation see Consultation on how GCSE, AS and A level grades should be awarded in summer 2021 (publishing.service.gov.uk)
Key representations from the NNPCF
Impact of C19 needs to be taken into account
- Any new arrangements must take into account the disproportionate impact of not being able to access school on learners with SEND. This can take many forms, for example:
- Those who rely on support from a Teaching Assistant to access learning may not have had that support for much of the year
- Many families have told us that they have not had access to specialist equipment or materials during lockdown
- Families have not had access to specialist teaching during the year – its can be significantly more difficult to support a child with additional needs than one without
- Many families report that they have not had access to a differentiated curriculum for much of the year making it more difficult for their children to learn in the appropriate way.
- The broader impact of covid 19 measures on pupils with SEND may further disadvantage children with SEND. For example, these might include:
- Many of the services that SEND families rely upon have been more difficult or impossible to access through this period. For example, therapy services were halted in many areas and appointments with paediatricians and mental health services have faced long delays. The impact on general wellbeing of children with SEND has been disproportionately impacted.
- Uncertainty throughout this period and change in routine may impact those with certain neurodiversity conditions making it more difficult for them to learn and increasing their anxiety.
- Children with SEND have also been impacted by factors effecting the wider school population. These must be factored into the assessment system if it is to have credibility and equity. Most notably:
- The difference in lost learning. Some children have lost a few days of time in school this year whereas others have lost months. Children with SEND have perhaps been more impacted because many have complex health conditions which makes it more likely that they have been unwell or shielding. Attendance statistics for special schools and mainstream schools evidence this.
- The quality of remote learning has varied greatly across the country and between schools. Some pupils have been receiving high quality interactive and tailored lessons throughout whereas others have simply been sent links to BBC bitesize and the oak academy. As noted above, some learners with SEND have received a well differentiated curriculum and others have not.
Carrying out assessments
- The key is that reasonable adjustments appropriate for each child with additional needs must be made to enable them to participate fairly in any assessment regime. These may include the normal access arrangements that schools may put in place (e.g. additional time in exams) but may also need to include additional measures to reflect the particular circumstances of each pupil. This would include information from the SENCo, any social care professionals or medical support the young person receives including allied professionals and therapy services.
- Many parents have asked that special provision is made for those young people who are approaching a significant transition. Apart from exams, they may not be ready to move onto the next stage of their education (e.g. if they have missed large amount of school) from an emotional or, independence or social skills point of view. For these young people, we would like them to have the option of repeating a year.
- Particular provision may need to be made for those young people who are retaking exams (for example to enable access to vocational courses).
- Given the impact of late decisions and uncertainty on many pupils with SEND, our families have asked for urgent clarity on arrangements. The disproportionate impact of uncertainty and changes to plans is something our members are desperate to avoid.
We firmly believe that the key to successful assessment of young people with SEND is coproduction with them and their families. Only by understanding their particular circumstances, the impact that the pandemic and our response has had on them can we hope to assess them in a credible and equitable way. Any measures or adjustments put in place must be coproduced with children, young people and their families.