NSEAD response to school and examination disruption

This year’s examination process has shown a fractured nation-wide examination landscape – where neither teachers’ expertise nor children’s interests have steered policy makers. Instead, the quest to uphold notional ‘national standards’ has revealed an examination system with gaping gaps in equity and fairness. We call on the Government to consult with subject associations, with teachers, to review and build a resilient and fair examinations system:

  1. We ask that proposals and actions for this year’s examinations recognise a duty of care for young people and that the interests of this year’s cohort are protected – all changes in assessment and grading must be undertaken with the humility young people deserve and that their career and education pathways are given full consideration
  2. We propose that an examination system with rigour would recognise best practice not the best result. A result in a mock exam, cannot compare to both coursework and externally set tasks as exemplified in art and design.
  3. We propose that a one-off retake examination and result, taken in November 2020, cannot compare to or be as reliable as coursework and examinations combined. This process will certainly add to teacher workload adding more barriers than benefits to achievement.
  4. The ‘triple lock’ does not address our subject's subject-specific examinations (externally set tasks (EST)) and coursework combination. Had the ministers consulted subject associations they would know that in our subject, examinations reflect only 40% of the overall final mark awarded, the other 60% being coursework. Some students respond less well in  exam conditions than they do in course work – a one-off mock grade cannot possibly reflect the way art and design is assessed. We ask that the Government recognises this.

We also believe the Government's proposal could discriminate between centres that hold and do not hold mock art and design exams – some members have contacted NSEAD and shared that due to time constraints their centres do not even undertake mock exams. 

However, those centres that do hold mocks have confirmed that mock exams are considerably shorter than the time given to the final EST. In addition, many centres confirm that mocks are held at very start of year 11. As students’ skills and experience mature, so also do their grades – an art and design mock, taken in November 2019, is likely not to reflect the final grade arrived at through a combination of course work and EST. The Government must also remember that mocks are not standardised let alone moderated. 

Of note, the 'triple lock' applies to England and Northern Ireland only, In Wales students who completed an AS level in art and design in 2019 can use their AS level grade if it is higher than the grade arrived at and awarded using the algorithmic methodology. However, in Wales in 2019, only 5% of the total number of AS levels completed were taken in art and design. In other words, very few students will have this opportunity. In Scotland, if a teacher predicted grade was above that given by SQA, then the teacher grade will be the final grade awarded. 

Essentially we ask, how can a one-off mock or AS level grade be more reliable than the centre-assessed grades based on teacher predictions already submitted? Mock examinations simply cannot reflect or compare to a final expected grade. The triple lock is ill-though through and is not fit for purpose. 

Michele Gregson says: 

‘The students of 2020 have experienced a traumatic end to their programmes of study. They face uncertainty as they progress to further and higher education, and an uncertain jobs market awaits them. We have a duty to attend to their needs now – to protect them from the distress, frustration and bitter disappointment created by assessment arrangements that they have no power to influence. It is the responsibility of schools, colleges, universities, employers and – most of all – our Governments across all nations, to do everything in our power to ensure that our young people are not harmed any more than they already have been by the impact of this pandemic. That applies now, and well into the future.’