Following the cancellation of this summer’s exam series, we await Ofqual’s guidance following the consultation on how grades will be assessed this year. There will be no algorithm this year so there will be even more of a spotlight on the process that teachers follow in order to decide on appropriate grades for pupils. Schools will need to pay close attention to Ofqual’s guidance when it is published, especially any requirements about assessing pupils with SEND as we saw a number of complaints alleging disability discrimination in relation to teacher assessments last summer. It remains vital that schools continue to think about how pupils with SEND are being supported with their learning, whether they are in school or accessing remote learning and we recommend that staff involved in assessing pupils with SEND this summer receive refresher training on the Equality Act 2010 (which is good practice anyway).
It was interesting to see that the response from OCR, one of the exam boards suggested that instead of pupils being informed about their grades on results day, there should instead be, “…a process that involves ongoing discussion between a teacher and a student about the potential grade to be awarded. This provides transparency, prevents any sudden surprises and has the potential to significantly reduce the risk of appeals.”
While we can see the benefits of taking such an approach, our concern would be how this would work in practice. What would happen if the views of the school and the pupil (or their parents) are not aligned during such discussions? Would staff come under a significant amount of pressure from certain pupils or parents which would divert time and resources away from other important tasks as we enter another summer term filled with uncertainty? Our guess is that Ofqual will instruct schools not to disclose assessment information until results day for these reasons but the devil will be in the detail.
The consultation indicated that an appeals process will be available to pupils but suggested that appeals can only be brought on procedural grounds. We expect that there would have been some resistance to having limited grounds for appeal in the responses to the consultation so we will need to wait and see what the final process will entail. In any event, it is likely that schools will need a robust appeals process in place and we will be revisiting and updating the bespoke appeals policy that we drafted last summer once the final guidance has been issued. Our view is that this will be an important tool to help schools to manage pupils’ expectations about the grounds for bringing an appeal and ensure that any complaints are handled efficiently and lawfully. Please contact our School Support team if you would like to register your interest in receiving our updated policy after the Ofqual guidance has been issued.
We were delighted to have over 100 people join us for our webinar on ‘Educating and assessing pupils with SEND during Covid-19: legal considerations for schools’. We received some lovely feedback about the session and a recording of the session is available if you would like to watch it in your own time. Click here to watch the recording.
We received a number of questions about SEN funding during the session so we have prepared a briefing note on this topic which is available. Click here to view the briefing note.
We’ll be holding our next online SEN ‘drop in’ clinic on 5 May 2021 so do get in touch if you have any SEND questions. Appointments are free, even if you’re not a member of our School Support Service.