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Updates from Ofqual - July 2017

Standards in summer 2017    

  • Ofqual is expecting more volatility at school level for the summer 2017 series. Ofqual's focus for the 2017 summer awarding is to protect students from being unfairly disadvantaged by being the first to sit new/changed qualifications   
  • Ofqual is urging relevant stakeholders to take into consideration reasons why fluctuations at a school level might have occurred. As part of this, Ofqual has briefed Ofsted and the National Schools Commissioner on how to analyse/interpret this summer's data. Information also went out to governors via the NGA's newsletter  
  • Ofqual will be using a statistical approach to predict the likely percentage of students achieving each grade. These predicted outcomes are contextualised by the prior attainment profile of the cohort           
    • This prediction is based on the relationship between prior attainment and outcomes (results) in a 'reference year' - for 9-1 GCSEs in 2017, that's key stage two 2011 to GCSE in 2016 for 16-year-olds            
  • Key entry pattern changes in 2017 may have an impact on results at national and individual school/college level. The full blog outlining this can be found here
    • GCSE English language and GCSE English literature – schools who have changed their entry approach (for example, moving from international GCSE, or entering more students for English literature) could see more variation in their results compared with previous years

    • GCSE maths - national results are likely to be stable, but individual schools could see more variation compared with previous years

    • AS level - national results could look very different because there has been a significant drop in entries; individual schools/colleges could see more variation compared with previous years, particularly if they have changed their entry approach

    • Reformed A levels - where the cohort is similar, Ofqual expects national results to be similar to 2016

    • Unreformed A levels - where the cohort is similar, Ofqual expects national results to be similar to 2016

      • Note that for French, German and Spanish, there has been a small adjustment at grade A to take account of the impact of native speakers. As such Ofqual is expecting around one per cent more students to achieve a grade A. Ofqual will be reviewing this again after the summer

      • Ofqual has no current plans to expand this adjustment to GCSE MFL

    • Applied generals – Some students may complete the reformed qualifications this year. The inclusion of the new external assessment means that pass rates in Level 3 applied general qualifications could drop

Quality of marking: confidence and consistency

  • The new qualifications have more open-ended style questions, which research has indicated as being more difficult to mark. This has raised some concerns about the ability to mark these exams consistently 
    • Ofqual stressed that this has been considered in the design phase of them, with a greater focus on the quality of the marks schemes to improve reliability
  • Ofqual has undertaken new research, part of which involved looking at which features are associated with consistent marking (for level-based mark schemes). Features that are positively associated are as follows:

    • Even distribution of marks per level
    • Order of levels; the highest level should be at the bottom
    • Prose descriptions of levels is better than bullet points
    • Maximum mark is even
  • Ofqual has also undertaken a reliability of marking study, which is due out later this year

Updates on reasonable adjustments and special consideration (JCQ)

  • JCQ will be releasing the new regulations for access arrangements at the end of July. JCQ is reviewing the release timing of this document and aiming to have it out before the end of term next year
  • JCQ reaffirmed its announcement, which outlined changes to the special consideration process for summer 2017. Previously minimum requirements for enhanced grading in cases of acceptable absence required candidates to have sat at least 40 per cent of the assessment. Awarding organisations have decided to lower this to 25 per cent

Opportunities for NAHT members to get involved 

  • Ofqual is conducting research to calculate total qualification time (TQT), which will be released alongside guided learning hours (GLHs) for the reformed GCSE qualifications. N.B. TQT is the time the awarding organisation would expect to be taken by a typical learner to study for the qualification; TQT acts as a guide for how big the qualification is. GLHs is the amount of time spent, either in the classroom or in tutorial, actually being taught. GLHs doesn't include time for assessment or the time taken for individual study.
    • The research will take a qualitative approach focusing on curriculum leads. If you are interested in getting involved, email
  • Ofqual is beginning its evaluation of GCSE and A levels reforms, starting with teacher workshops this autumn. If you would like to sign up for this, click here