Plantsbrook students get innovative assessments to help decide grades

Plantsbrook School students whose course results are to be decided by staff assessments instead of exams this year are being given innovative ‘mini assessments’ to ensure that their final grades are as accurate as possible.

The Government has announced that this year, for GCSEs, AS and A levels, teachers across the country will assess the standard at which pupils are performing based only on what they have been taught – so that schools and colleges can determine their grades. 

However, Plantsbrook has introduced a series of innovative ‘mini assessments’ which give students the opportunity to demonstrate thier ability and to work in combination with previous results, such as mock exams and course work.

“the idea is they will help students to demonstrate evidence that might see them improve and give them the opportunity that the cancellation of exams removed to show their best”

Headteacher Jason Farr said: “We have got a clear plan in place.  We have planned these mini assessments to take place in classes for year 11 students, and they will supplement the existing data for students from mock exams, course work, classwork and projected grades we have for them, going back over the last couple of years.

“We have already got a good bank of evidence to give a grade to each of those students without doing those mini assessments – but in line with the guidance from the DFE the idea is they will help students to demonstrate evidence that might see them improve and give them the opportunity that the cancellation of exams removed to show their best.” 

The assessments are taking place over six weeks – the fortnight before Easter and 4 weeks after – and are between 20 and 50 minutes long.

But Mr Farr stressed that they are taking place in lessons – as the school has tried to be mindful of student and staff workload and wellbeing.

“The assessments are very focused, there is time to prepare for them,” he said.

“But they are not exams. It gives the opportunity for students to do the best they can do, and they have responded positively to them so far. 

“We did ask the students for their views on the idea, and they were concerned about us putting in place a load of exams, bearing in mind that the national message is there has been a cancellation of exams. 

“We made it clear that they are not exams, they are not done under exam conditions, but they are not done in halls, they are mini assessments to give them the opportunity to prove to us what their strengths are, and what they are capable of achieving. 

“We feel we have the balance right, and ultimately we want to make sure our students aren’t disadvantaged by the experience of covid and lockdowns and the pandemic.

“We have a wealth of information already, but we just want to give our students that final opportunity to say: ‘I know you have got me at this grade, but I know I could have got this grade if you had just given me that chance to sit those mini assessments and work my socks off to prove that to you’. 

“It’s often forgotten in all of this, that students actually wanted to sit exams, they wanted to go through the process and prove what they were capable of. We are just putting in place an opportunity for them to demonstrate that.”

“We made it clear that they are not exams, they are not done under exam conditions, but they are not done in halls, they are mini assessments to give them the opportunity to prove to us what their strengths are, and what they are capable of achieving.”

Mr Farr added that the school had been planning for months how to handle this year’s grades, and that quality assurance was in place ‘at all levels’.

“At every one of those levels, from class teacher up to subject leaders, those grades and assessments will be heavily scrutinised, and will be checked, measured and balanced. 

“I have every confidence that when they reach me, and I do my assessment of them, I will be able to sign that declaration with confidence that the staff have done their job with honesty and integrity. 

“I can say with a lot of assurance that we have got a track record of strong assessment, with robust systems in place, and our departments have got a history of accuracy in their judgements.”

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