General Qualifications Bulletin - International - Issue 4 | Pearson qualifications

General Qualifications Bulletin - International - Issue 4

3 March 2021
Pearson General Qualifications Bulletin

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I hope you are all keeping well and safe. Since our last bulletin the UK 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. 

With the approach for UK qualifications now confirmed, we are eager to provide you with an update on the approach that we will adopt for International GCSE and International AS/A Level which we are pleased to provide today.

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We will continue to update you with these bulletins as we release more support and guidance to assist you with awarding grades in 2021. 

To ensure you have the latest information, please continue to visit our dedicated support page, and follow us on Twitter (@PearsonEdexcel) and Facebook 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

On 25 February the Department for Education and Ofqual confirmed arrangements for how this year’s GCSE and A level results will be graded and issued to students. Students will receive grades based on teachers’ judgements of their performance based on a range of evidence. We're now working through the detail of these arrangements to understand what they mean for schools, colleges, teachers and students, including those taking our international general qualifications.   

We can confirm that UK and international centres will follow the same approach for the UK GCSE and AS/A level qualifications. 

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 are 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 which 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 have 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/A 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 will provide details of what you will need to do in due course – it will be very similar to how you typically deal with exam materials.  

These test materials can then be used in two ways; firstly, as unseen materials presented to students in a controlled situation, in a specified timeframe, for them to respond to; or secondly, 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 – we will provide more detail on each of these options in the coming weeks. 

To support the use of these unseen materials we will be offering an optional marking service where our expert examiners will mark your student responses. We will mark the test materials and return a mark to you for your consideration when deriving the student grade. We will 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 would prefer to mark the materials yourself, we will be providing mark schemes and training materials so that you can do so with confidence.  

The approach for this series will be underpinned by a quality assurance process that focuses on helping you to make judgements, based on evidence, that are objective and consistent. There will be several different stages, and we will provide more detail in the next edition of this bulletin, but we are committed to ensuring that it is supportive and not overly burdensome. 

We promise to now work with you to make sure students receive grades to progress to the next stage of their education. We'll provide detailed guidance and support to ensure this happens.

This will include how to reach grading decisions, the creation of assessment materials, the quality assurance process and appeals, along with the general support around timelines and submission systems. We will also be providing support for teachers through our Professional Development Academy where teachers will be able to sign up and access a range of resources. We will share further details with you shortly.   

We understand that exams remain important to you and your students, therefore we intend to run an additional focused exam series for International GCSE later in the year. If you have not done so already, please share your feedback in this consultation to help us understand your needs and priorities in relation to additional exam opportunities in 2021. Your feedback will be used to support decisions regarding:  

  • preferred timeframe for an additional series for Pearson Edexcel International GCSE 
  • preferences on any subjects to add to the regular Pearson Edexcel International AS/A Level October exam series (international schools/centres only). 

On 25 February the Department for Education and Ofqual confirmed that results will be issued to students in early August. AS and A level and International AS and A Level results will be issued to students on Tuesday 10 August 2021. GCSE and International GCSE results will be issued to students on Thursday 12 August 2021. As usual exam boards will release results to centres on the preceding day.

Whilst a number of key dates are still under discussion, this timeline (PDF, 0.1 MB) on our website indicates what we are able to confirm at this time.

It’s important that you make your entries as usual by 21 March 2021 to ensure that students receive their qualification grade this for this series. 

We appreciate that you may have queries about fee arrangements. We are investing in training, assessment materials and quality assurance processes to support you in making your teacher assessment decisions. We’d like to reassure you that we will be passing on any net savings, where they exist, to you. 

We are committed to ensuring that there is a robust solution for private candidates. We will be providing further information for centres on how best to support private candidates, including guidance on the selection of assessment evidence. This will be available at the end of March. 

Centres should continue to make entries for private candidates as normal. The withdrawal deadline for June 2021 is 21 April so if you feel you are unable to give a result to a private candidate, you can withdraw by this date and receive credit for the subject fee paid. 

We appreciate that the arrangements are not yet clear for private candidates and so we will not penalise private candidates making entries up to 22 March and withdrawing prior to 22 April.  

Further information on how to ensure that late fees are not incurred can be found on our Private candidates page

Ofqual have confirmed, following the publication of their decisions on assessment arrangements for summer 2021, that candidates should continue to be given the opportunity to complete non-exam assessment (NEA) . The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has released guidance (PDF, 76 KB) for centres on how to complete and authenticate non-exam assessment remotely, where it is safe and possible to do so.

Ofqual have also confirmed that NEA will not be moderated by the exam boards. The evidence from NEA will be used by teachers to inform their Teacher Assessed Grade (TAG). We know that teachers may be concerned about how to assess incomplete NEA evidence when a candidate has been unable to finish their work through no fault of their own. The exam boards are working together to provide additional guidance to help centres in these circumstances.

As mentioned above we we want to ensure parity with our UK qualifications and so will align the approach for NEA on international qualifications with the approach for UK qualifications. 

The consultation outcome confirms that for GCSE English language, GCSE modern foreign languages and A level sciences (biology, chemistry, physics and geology), centres should determine and submit a separate grade or result for the endorsement. This result or grade should be based on work that has been completed towards the endorsement.

We will be aligning our approach to endorsements on international qualifications as far as possible and will share more details about the process and timeline for submitting endorsement grades for all qualifications in due course. 

We are actively engaging with global universities and admissions bodies about the approach to teacher assessed grades this year. We will continue to do this throughout the process. 

We know that universities and qualification evaluators remain committed to upholding transparency and fairness to all students from every curriculum around the world in these uncertain times. They will provide feedback on how they will evaluate teacher assessed grades once we have finalised our process. 
Universities are aware that students need reassurance that they will not be disadvantaged in their applications for admission and advance standing/credit. 

Although it is very early in the process, some universities have already confirmed that they will welcome students with teacher assessed grades and that they will hold the same value as exam-derived results. 

We continue to work closely with the British Council to ensure that local teams are in a position to support you.

If you are planning to make entries via the British Council, either as a centre or as a private candidate, please contact your local British Council office for further information and guidance.


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