Summer 2021 support

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The Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual have confirmed their approach for issuing grades in summer 2021. Grades will need to be submitted by 18 June 2021. You can find more detailed information on their website.

We're providing support and guidance documents via the Pearson Professional Development Academy as well as running pre-recorded and live training sessions. 

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Our training will cover general support for: 

  • grading
  • quality assurance processes
  • how you may use the organised and additional assessment materials
  • appeals
  • unconscious bias  

The first support materials are now available for you to access via the Professional Development Academy, with further materials following in mid-April. You can also book a place at some live training sessions for both UK and International qualifications.

More detail on the Department for Education and Ofqual approach for arriving at grades this year can be found on their website.

On Friday 26 March the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) released comprehensive guidance on the process for deriving grades this summer. Whilst we recommend reading the full detail of the document, we know it’s an incredibly busy time in schools and colleges right now, and work towards determining grades for this summer is only one of the many things taking place. So, to help you work through and understand the detail of this guidance,  we have pulled out the ten key areas to note from the document, which we hope you’ll find useful. Take a look at the document below.

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In order to assist centres we have created a comprehensive guidance on the process for deriving grades this summer. This document provides an overview of the approach together with detail on each of the specific aspects – including quality assurance, grading and appeals. It is important that you take time work through the document and in the coming weeks we will do all that we can to support you in your understanding of it.

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Approach for International GCSE and International AS/A Level (May/June 2021 series)

To ensure fairness for all students around the world, we want to ensure parity with our UK qualifications and so will align the evidence-based approach for international qualifications with the approach for UK qualifications, as far as it is sensible to do so. 

We also recognise that there are a range of circumstances faced by international schools and we're committed to providing assessment materials, services, support and guidance to ensure that you can proceed with confidence. 

Student grades will be derived by teachers and centres, with support throughout from Pearson. With our support, it will be possible to use a variety of evidence to inform the grade that will be submitted to Pearson. 

We want to ensure that you have access to assessment materials that will enable objective and fair judgements to be made about student performance; we've also heard from you that you want us to support you in translating evidence-based judgements into grades. 

Unseen test materials for International GCSE and International AS/AS Level 

One of the forms of evidence that will be made available is the optional use of unseen test materials. We will send unseen test materials to all centres – teachers and students will be familiar with the style of the materials as they will look like question papers used in a normal exam series. The materials will need to be kept securely, until a specified date, and we'll provide details of what you'll need to do in due course – it will be very similar to how you typically deal with exam materials. 

These test materials can be used in two ways:  

1. As unseen materials presented to students in a controlled situation, in a specified timeframe, for them to respond to 


2. After the specified timeframe, in the knowledge that they may be familiar to students, used as one part of the evidence that supports the teacher grade.   

Individual countries can choose to mandate these optional elements and will communicate their decisions directly with their schools. In countries where the Ministry of Education does not choose to mandate an approach, the decision can made by schools who will communicate directly with students.  

We will start to dispatch unseen content materials from 9 April for delivery into centres before 26 April.  We will track all deliveries and work with you should we see any delays in transit. For late entries, made after 21 March, you will need to print from our secure download service (SDS), if you require materials to be sent via secure file transfer (SFT) please contact our customer services team on 00 44 120 477 0696.  

Please remember that these materials are secure until the dates specified and should be treated in the same way as any other examination materials. 

The unseen content assessment timetables for International GCSE and International AS/A level can be found on our website.  

Marking service  

To support the use of these unseen materials, we'll be offering an optional marking service where our expert examiners will mark your students’ responses. We'll mark the test materials and return a mark to you for your consideration when deriving the student grade. We'll provide you with support to understand how the mark aligns with performance descriptors so that you can be confident in your understanding of the mark. This will be an optional service and if you'd prefer to mark the materials yourself, we'll be providing mark schemes and training materials so that you can do so with confidence.  

We’ll be sharing details of how to confirm that you’d like to utilise the optional marking service to centre next week.  

Attendance Registers will be supplied to all centres regardless of whether they are using the optional marking service or not. The registers will also include returns labels for those wishing to return papers for marking. Please only return your completed attendance registers where you would like to make use of our marking service, indicating any students as absent if you are not returning a paper for every candidate entered. 

We will not be providing our usual stationery such as bags for returning scripts, if you would like to use the marking service and require returns bags, these can be ordered by completing our additional stationery request form

We will be providing modified unseen content to support students this May/June. If you submitted a modified order before 21 March for large print or interactive materials, PDF formats will be available via our secure download service (SDS). Tactile and braille assessments will be dispatched from 9 April.  If you require models & shapes for any of our International GCSE, AS or A Level Maths assessments please email by 29 March. 

We know that you are keen to start preparing for grading candidates for our UK General Qualifications, and we are fully committed to making sure you’ll have everything you need for each individual qualification at the very earliest opportunity.

Below is the initial timeline of some of the key activities that we are working towards. We will update this as more key dates become available.

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The Department for Education has published guidance for centres on a Private Candidate Support Grant.

JCQ have also produced guidance for private candidates.   

Private candidates will be assessed this year on a range of evidence, in a similar way to other students.  Centres accepting private candidate entries will need to understand how the private candidate has been studying, what evidence they may have already generated, and how much of the specification content they have covered in their studies.  Private candidates’ results should be included in a centre’s internal quality assurance checks as far as possible, but they may need to be excluded from wider quality assurance exercises where, for example, their evidence base is different from the centre’s other students. 

JCQ will produce a list of centres willing to offer GCSEs, AS or A levels to private candidates who wish to enter in Summer 2021. All JCQ centres will be given the opportunity to be added to the list. JCQ will be contacting centres shortly and asking them to provide details of the subjects they can offer and a brief outline of their assessment process including, for example, whether they can offer assessments remotely and whether they are willing to consider pre-existing evidence.We can assure private candidates that they will not need to pay higher entry fees if, as a result of this, they need to make their entry after the extended entry deadline. 

Further information for centres on how best to support private candidates, including guidance on the selection of assessment evidence can be found in the JCQ document above.  

Visit our dedicated Private candidates page for further information and support

Supporting students, parents and carers throughout 2021 is a top priority and it's important to us that all students receive a fair grade. We'll make sure you have clear information and guidance on how we're supporting your teachers to help them make their grading decisions, and will have lots of other support on our webpage dedicated to students, parents and carers.

Visit our dedicated web page for further information and support

We are working with Department for Education, Ofqual and other exam boards to finalise the approach to providing students with grades this summer and don’t yet fully understand the impact on our costs. Once we do, any net savings that we make will be passed back to you as a credit note. 

We are planning to invoice customers for their June 2021 General Qualification entries during March 2021. 

Summer 2021 grading support

We'll be supporting you and your students every step of the way with the 2021 summer arrangements. Take a look at the support for your subject qualifications below: