General Qualification Bulletin - UK Independent Schools - Issue 7 | Pearson qualifications

General Qualification Bulletin - UK Independent Schools - Issue 7

14 April 2021

We hope you are keeping safe, have had something of a break over Easter and are looking forward to the summer term ahead.

We appreciate that recently we have shared with you many key documents and a number of important dates – we are committed to making sure that you have all the support and information that you need in order to determine student grades this summer.

Read more

Please ensure that you have read the JCQ Guidance on the Determination of Grades for A/AS Levels and GCSEs this summer - and let us know if there is anything we can help you with.

We are providing a wide range of support documents so please make sure all your teachers and departments have accessed the subject support guides which are available on our Summer 2021 support page. Also, make sure you have been onto the Pearson Professional Development Academy  and have accessed the support documents there that are relevant for your role. Be sure to sign up to the live subject events we have coming up throughout April and May too - I know these will be really helpful.

We will continue to signpost the key information in segments throughout this newsletter and through the key documents and support materials that we make available over the coming weeks. We will continue to add key dates to our evolving timeline which can be found in the 2021 Key dates and deadlines document (PDF, 0.1 MB).

As the 30 April deadline for the Centre Policy submission approaches, please make sure you have downloaded the template document from the JCQ website for UK Qualifications or our Pearson template for international qualifications. Remember to make sure this accurately reflects the approach that you will be taking to derive grades this summer.

As you work through the process of determining grades this summer we are keen to hear your thoughts on what support you think may be helpful and we are committed to meeting your needs as far as we are able to do so. Please submit any suggestions or feedback by completing the Summer 2021 feedback form and we will make sure this features in our thinking over the coming weeks.

To ensure you have the latest information, please continue to visit our dedicated support page, and follow us on Twitter (@PearsonEdexcel) to keep up to date. If you would like to speak to us directly, you can get in touch with any questions via our  contact form, or by calling the relevant team for your role.  

My thanks again to you and your colleagues for the amazing work you are doing every day.

Hayley White
Assessment Director

The Joint Council for Qualifications have released comprehensive guidance on the process for deriving grades this summer (PDF, 1.6 MB). This guidance, along with our support, will be an important document as centres work to determine grades for UK qualifications in summer 2021.

We have also released our Pearson International Qualifications Guidance (PDF, 1.4 MB). This guidance will be an important document as centres work to determine grades for international qualifications in summer 2021. Owing to the close alignment to the UK approach there are similarities within the documents but there are also important differences for our international approach.

We know it’s a busy time in schools at the moment and work towards determining grades for this summer is only one of the many things taking place. So, to help centres work through and understand the detail of the JCQ guidance,  we have pulled out the ten key areas to note from the document (PDF, 0.1 MB), which we hope will be useful.  

As we’ve said previously, there will be a quality assurance process that underpins the teacher assessment grades this summer. The first stage of this is submission of the centre policy and the portal is now open and can be accessed via Edexcel Online.

Every centre must produce a Centre Policy; this can be done by choosing to adopt the pre-populated template that is available via the JCQ website. This needs to be submitted by 30 April via the Centre Admin Portal which can be accessed via Edexcel Online.

Over the next few weeks we will be making some supporting phone calls to some centres. We know there are lots of documents and pieces of information and we want to check that you have access to all the documents you need to create and submit the centre policy by the deadline, as well as making sure you have the documents to support determining grades for candidates.

More guidance about the quality assurance process can be found on the JCQ guidance website, the Pearson International Guidance (PDF, 0.1 MB) and in the  Pearson Professional Development Academy  including a checklist to make sure everything is covered. 

As outlined in the JCQ guidance document, the Pearson International Guidance (PDF, 1.4 MB) and on the  Pearson Professional Development Academy , there is a recommended five step process to arrive at the grades: 

  • Step 1 – Consider what has been taught 

  • Step 2 – Collect the evidence from across the course of study 

  • Step 3 – Evaluate the quality of evidence  

  • Step 4 – Establish if the range of evidence is appropriate for all students 

  • Step 5 – Assign a grade. 

You will also need to ensure that the grades represent a holistic judgement. The grading process this year is not intended to be a formulaic calculation, and should account for the context in which each student’s evidence has been produced.  For tiered GCSEs, your grade must reflect the tier of entry. 

Grade descriptors are available now on the JCQ website, and grading exemplification will be available from the 19 April on our website.  These must be used to make holistic judgements about student performance. Your professional experience and judgment will form a key part of this process and due consideration must be given to all the evidence collected for each student. Please make sure all teachers have seen these

These materials for UK qualifications are available in the subject pages under ‘Summer 2021 assessment materials for centres’.  These can be accessed via the Summer 2021 support page.

The additional assessment materials have been drawn from past paper content, from both published and unpublished material. A reminder of what this means below: 

  • ‘Published’ those materials publicly available on the Pearson website and 

  • ‘Unpublished ’those materials still under padlock to our centres (mainly papers from 2019/2020). 

  • In most cases, question paper coverage is such that it allows us to draw upon our past paper content, without the need to supplement with new content. 

As per our regulatory requirements, we will be making these materials publicly available on our website from 19 April 2021. Mark schemes will not be released publicly and will remain under secure padlock for the duration of the process of deriving grades for summer 2021. 

The arrangements for awarding grades to students in summer 2021 include internal and external quality assurance measures which aim to ensure that on results day student are issued with fair and consistent grades that have been objectively reached. Sharing information with students about the evidence being used as part of a centre’s grade determination process is important and should help to avoid issues that may otherwise arise when results are issued.   

Students will be able to appeal their grade. A student who is unhappy with their grade will first ask their centre to check whether an administrative or procedural error had been made. 

Where a centre does identify an error in the grade submitted to the exam board, it can submit a revised grade and a rationale for the board to consider. If the exam board is satisfied with the rationale, it will issue a revised grade.  

Where a centre does not believe an error had been made, a student can ask the centre to appeal to the exam board on their behalf. The centre will submit the student’s appeal to the exam board and provide the evidence on which its judgement had been made; the exam board will consider whether, in its view, the grade reflected a reasonable exercise of academic judgement – both in terms of the evidence selected, and the overall grade awarded.  
If the exam board judges that it did not, the exam board will determine the grade that the evidence would support, or will refer the case back to the centre to take further action. The exam board will also check that the centre had followed its own process. 

A link to the latest timeline for UK and International qualifications can be found in the 2021 Key dates and deadlines document (PDF, 0.1 MB) - we do continue to add dates so please do use it for your reference. 

Key dates this fortnight: 

  • 12 April 
    - Centre policy submission portal open 
    - Additional support materials published to centres – marking exemplification 

  • 19 April 
    - Additional support materials published to centres - grading exemplification 

- Student-friendly versions of mapping grids and sets of questions made available publicly via Pearson website 

  • From 19 April 
    - Pearson undertakes review of submitted centre policies 

  • 26 April 
    - Unseen Assessment schedule begins for International Qualifications 

As you know the Department for Education and Ofqual have confirmed arrangements for how this year’s GCSE, AS and A level results will be graded and issued to students. We want to ensure fairness for all students taking our qualifications and to ensure parity between the approach taken for GCSE and A level with some of our other qualifications.  

Therefore, for the following qualifications we will align to the same evidence-based approach that we are using for GCSE and A level qualifications: 

  • Edexcel Awards in Mathematics 

  • Edexcel Advanced Extension Award in Mathematics 

  • Mathematics in Context (Level 3 Core Maths) 

  • Entry Level Certificate (English, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science). 

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, appropriate for the qualification being delivered, to inform the grade which will be submitted to Pearson.  

JCQ released a document entitled Guidance for students, parents and guardians: GCSEs and AS/A levels in England Summer 2021 (PDF, 1.0 MB) that provides an overview of the most important information that students, parents and carers need to know about how grades will be awarded this summer. We recommend you share this with your students, parents and carers.

We’ve added this information to our Support for students, parents and carers web page, where you can also find: 

  • video from our Assessment Director, Hayley White, that explains how grades will be determined this year 

  • student-friendly timeline (PDF, 0.1 MB) that provides details and key dates for the awarding of GCSE, International GCSEs, AS and A levels, this summer 

  • feedback form so students, parents and carers can provide get in touch to give us feedback or suggest any further support materials they may find useful.   

Please do share this information with your students and encourage parents and carers to take a look. 

JCQ has issued interim guidance for private candidate centres offering GCSEs, AS and A levels, outlining those elements of the assessment process that are particularly relevant for private candidates. The guidance can be found in this JCQ guidance document (PDF, 0.2 MB).  

JCQ have also created a list of centres that will be able to support entries for private candidates for GCSE, AS and A levels. To make sure that private candidates have sufficient time to make entries, we will be waiving late fees for private candidates up to 26 April. 

DfE has issued details of its private candidate support grant, which will provide £200 for eligible centres in England accepting private candidate entries for GCSEs, AS and A levels to cover the additional costs of assessment this summer. This will ensure that private candidates who are eligible for the scheme do not need to pay more for their entry this year than they would in a normal year.

You will be aware that arrangements for International GCSE in the upcoming assessment series include the optional use of unseen assessment materials. 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, schools can choose whether their students sit the unseen materials.   
Schools choosing to use these unseen materials also have the option of having these materials marked by Pearson examiners through the Pearson marking service.   
We would like to confirm that use of the marking service is included within the qualification entry fees confirmed in January. We know that you may have some queries about this, and please take a look at the below FAQ which may help.  
What does this mean? 
We review our standard qualification entry fees every year and confirmed the fees list for the current series in January 2021. This was confirmed before exams for International GCSE were replaced with the alternative solution.   
The alternative solution for this assessment series includes a range of new and different approaches, guidance and support, developed specifically for this series. We are investing in these new and different activities to ensure a strong experience for you and your students this year.   
As part of this, we are making the marking service available to all and are keen to ensure that there are no financial barriers to accessing this service. To support this, use of the marking service is included within the qualification entry fees confirmed earlier this year.  
You must let us know if you intend to use the marking service  
If you wish to use the optional marking service, please ensure you complete the following steps in Edexcel Online:  

  1. Select GCSE from the qualification drop down as required
  2. Select ‘International Optional Marking Service’ from the menu
  3. Select 'June 2021' and press the ‘Next’ button
  4. You will be able to see all subjects for that qualification in the list and your current entries - you can then tick the subjects you require marking or select all if applicable and click submit at the bottom of the page.  

We can confirm that the above needs to be completed by 26 April 2021

My school is considering using the Pearson Mocks Service this summer. Does the above affect arrangements here?

The update above relates to the marking service for unseen materials for International GCSE as part of arrangements for this Summer’s assessment series.    
The Pearson mocks service is a distinct pre-existing service which provides schools and colleges with exam papers for use in mock examinations. The papers are sat by students, marked by Pearson examiners and the mock results are uploaded to ResultsPlus for item level analysis. This optional service will be available for select GCSE and A level qualifications this Summer, and existing service fees apply. 

We will start to dispatch unseen content materials from 16 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 03444 632 535. Further down in this bulletin you will find advice regarding some recent changes to SFT.

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 specified dates for the use of unseen content are published on our Exam timetables web page.

Centres who made entries by 6 April will receive hard copy attendance registers and white return address labels. Centres who made entries after 6 April will need to print their own attendance registers, following the Exams: Attendance Registers and Labels International Centresuidance guidance.  

Hard copy attendance registers will be dispatched week commencing 19 April. 

Please only return attendance registers with question papers where you require our marking service for Unseen Content Assessment. 

Please note, International GCSEs are not part of the DfE Parcelforce Yellow Label Service.  Therefore, centres will need to arrange their own couriers to return materials as required. 

Exam Stationery 

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 from our Centre Materials website

Modified Formats 

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. 

Changes to SFT 

If you use our Secure File Transfer (SFT) system to download electronic copies of question papers, please note the following changes to the system are now in effect: 
1. Minimum password length increased from 7 to 8 characters 
2. Passwords set to expire after 60 days 
3. Session timeout reduced to 15 minutes 
4. Users unable to re-use previous 24 passwords 

These changes will apply to any new users immediately. If you already use SFT,  you will receive a notification if your password is going to expire.

Due to the cancellation of exams last summer, we have a number of unused packs of question papers left in stock which may be of use to you. In the interests of both sustainability as well as saving you time printing your own copies, we’re making these papers available for all centres. 

You'll be able to order papers via a new portal that will be live from 19 April. Papers will be available on a first come first served basis until they are exhausted. 

Subject to availability, question papers can be ordered in denominations of 5, 10 or 20. There will be a small charge to cover the administration and courier costs per order. Charges will be calculated at a rate of 20p per paper for orders up to £40 and then at a rate of 10p per paper for orders over £40. Question papers will be available for the following series: 

General qualifications (including GCSE, International GCSE, AS and A level) for October 2020, November 2020 and January 2021. 

Further information with details about how to access the past papers website and how to create an account will be communicated to all centres on Friday 16 April.  

The updated guidance on awarding results in 2021 can be found on our Awarding results in 2021 web page. Here you’ll find videos of briefings and Q&A sessions with additional detail, alongside the guidance.  In addition, if you’d like to find out the latest information and support for our vocational qualifications, please take a look at our Supporting FE during Coronavirus web page where you can find news and updates, with links to our regular VQ Bulletin which contains all the key updates you need for our vocational qualifications. 

As you work through the process of determining grades this summer we are keen to hear your thoughts on what extra support you think may be helpful and we are committed to meeting your needs as far as we are able to do so. Please submit any suggestions or feedback by completing the Summer 2021 feedback form and we will make sure this features in our thinking over the coming weeks. 


Are you sure you want to exit this session?