NSEAD Executive statement on the impact of Examinations

The NSEAD Special Interest Group Response to Ofqual's Extraordinary Consultation

29th April 2020

On awarding grades; 

  • We are pleased that teacher judgment informed by evidence of students’ performance during their courses of study will provide the basis of awarding grades this year. We believe that teachers of art and design are well placed to do this fairly as we are the only subject that is fully Non-Exam Assessment and are experienced at providing  a rank order of students’ grades. However, we would like to see a cut-off date for work to be considered for when awarding grades to align with the order to close schools on March 23rd, as it is impossible to authenticate any work that has been completed beyond this date. This will ensure a fair playing field as some students will have had no access to their work or the facilities and materials needed to continue their art and design work during lockdown, and indeed there is no mechanism for schools to collect, and for teachers to review, work undertaken after this date.


  • In the case of private candidates we are in agreement that their grades should be calculated where they are linked to a centre and where the Head of Centre can verify that centre assessment grades and a place in the rank order can properly be submitted.


  • We believe that national and international candidates entering for qualifications covered by Ofqual’s regulatory framework should be treated in the same way and awarded grades in line with the new guidance.


On the process of standardising centre assessment grades; 

  • Our subject in not generalisable and subject specific nuances are not considered in the consultation document. We believe that there is the need to consider the authenticity of art and design and would like to see the removal of the word ‘common’ in reference to the standardisation process across subjects.


On the grounds for appealing final grades;

  • We believe that any appeals against final grading must be centre led and that it will be impractical for student-direct grievances to be considered where no physical art work can be reviewed.
  • We recommend that all awarding bodies are required to build in a mechanism to mitigate against appeals and include manual checks if algorithms used to calculate grades throw up anomalies.
  • Although there is the possibility for students to take an exam in the Autumn term this is undesirable and potentially difficult for Art and Design.



We urge Ofqual and the awarding bodies to consider the impact that the Covid-19 closures is having on current Year 10 and Year 12 art and design students and the development of the portfolio units of the qualifications as a matter of urgency. This could be in the form of reducing the coursework presented or through the reduction of grade boundaries or ‘pass’ marks for next year’s cohort.

We also ask that they consider the opportunity for awarding bodies to develop capacity to standardise using a digital portfolio in the future, as social distancing measures likely to still be in place.


Since the announcement of disruption to the summer examination series, NSEAD – the professional body for art, craft and design education – has called for subject-specific guidance to support schools, colleges and centres. We ask that the regulating authorities consider the unique assessment and moderation needs of art and design qualifications. 

Without a written examination, art and design specialists have no evidence of written drafts that have been marked, other than practical Component 1 and mock examination evidence. Not all schools consistently allocate the recommended time and development/preparation opportunities to their students for the mock exam. All of which emphasises the need for a greater emphasis on teacher assessment based on more consistently detailed progress assessments.

The NSEAD Executive call for:

Clear guidance for Art and Design teachers about how to provide a ‘best assessment’ to inform exam boards of the award of calculated grades and how the process will be consistently applied for all students. On behalf of our members, we ask the following questions:

  1. A mix of data sources will be used to inform teacher assessments. We do not agree that mock examinations are a true or correct reflection of student potential, and strongly advise that teacher assessment, rather than exam marks, are considered. What evidence will contribute to calculated grades in Art and Design?
  2. There is a clear danger that educational inequality will grow as a result of school closures. Those students who were unable to submit coursework before and after school closures will be disadvantaged if teachers assess work beyond that point. We are aware of at least one examination board subject specialist giving advice that pupils should be able to continue working on portfolios for assessment. What is the ‘cut off’ point date teachers should use, after which further work cannot be included in assessments? 
  3. Is it the intention to allow students to complete work at home towards an examination, beyond the date on which schools closed. How are students supposed to deliver this to a school and are teachers supposed to safely take in such work?
  4. Prior attainment data based on KS2 SATS has proved an unreliable predictor for Art and Design performance. How will this be reflected in the calculated grades formula?
  5. The intention is that grades will be awarded fairly, without disadvantage to students. Will these assessments be externally moderated and if so, how will it be arranged?
  6. The aim is to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July. How will reviews of marking for centre assessed marks be managed within this timescale?
  7. Where school performance data over previous years is included in the calculation, students in schools that have made rapid progress this year will be disadvantaged. We have been assured that these grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years. How will this be achieved?
  8. There will be an option to sit exams early in the next academic year for any students who wish to – and students can also choose to sit exams next summer. How will this be managed for practical subjects that have a month of supervised preparation and 2-3 days of controlled examination conditions requiring access to specialist studios, equipment and resources?
  9. Lost studio time for a prolonged period will have a serious impact on the progress of the upcoming cohort of students. Inequalities regarding access to materials, tools and equipment as well as access to online provision, will further amplify inequalities. How will the impact on the 2021 series be managed?

We appreciate that all efforts are being made to deliver for learners at an exceptionally difficult time. The Scottish Qualifications Authority have announced that an estimate model will be subject to a reduced external verification, but details have not yet been finalised. Ofqual have assured us that regulators and exam boards will be discussing with teachers’ representatives before finalising the approach in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to ensure that it is as fair as possible. 

We have written to both Ofqual and the SQA to express our concern that the continued lack of information is causing high levels of stress and anxiety amongst teachers and students of Art and Design. On behalf of our members and students of Art and Design throughout the UK we ask that full consideration be given to their specific requirements, and that these are communicated clearly, without delay.


31st March 2020