Guidance for centre assessment grades and rank orders

Guidance for teachers on how to create centre assessment grades and rank orders, in place of exams, for summer 2020.

With no exams this summer, teachers are being asked to create centre assessment grades and rank orders for their students. These will then be standardised by exam boards.

Some teachers may have similar experience from standardising non-exam assessment. But we know that, for most of you, it's the first time you have been asked to compare student performances this way.

To help, we've put together some guidance on how to approach the task as fairly and objectively as possible.

Three-step process

Each school is different and the same process won’t apply to everyone, but we recommend approaching it in these three steps.

Step 1: Initial grades and rank orders (at teaching group level)

Start at the teaching group level (eg individual classes).

Using all the available evidence, plus your judgement of the progress students were likely to have made by the time of the exams, assign an initial grade to every student.

Still in individual teaching groups, rank order students by grade, and then rank order students within each grade.

If possible, we recommend that subject leads review both the centre assessment grades and rank orders alongside the class teacher(s) to support judgements being made.

Step 2: Standardise across teaching groups (at cohort level)

If there is more than one teaching class for a subject (such as sets), teachers will then need to standardise the centre assessment grades across these classes and agree a single rank order for the whole cohort.

Please do not provide separate rank orders for foundation and higher tiers.

Where possible, using any common assessments that have already been standardised will be helpful here.

Step 3: Final check

Once you have the agreed centre assessment grades and a single rank order per subject, give these a thorough 'sense check' to make sure they reflect a typical performance for your school or college.

  • Review the centre assessment grades and the rankings within each grade. Consider, in particular, how your centre performed in previous years. For example, does your centre usually achieve more grades of 4 and above than you typically predict?
  • Review how sub-groups typically perform. For example, does one group’s performance surprise you every year and do your centre assessment grades reflect how you believe things will be or how they are really likely to turn out?
  • Most importantly, overall does the picture of centre assessment grades and rankings for your centre look fair and defensible? Is it a true evidence-based representation of what your students would have achieved on results day?

Key points to remember

Gather information before you begin

Before you start to assign grades, gather information, evidence and insights to inform your judgement and give it context.

  • Gather as many pieces of assessment evidence as you can – do not use a single source of evidence, such as the last mock exam result as it will not provide the holistic view needed.
  • For larger departments, identify common assessments that will help you standardise across classes.
  • Make a note of the weightings for different components so you can bear these in mind when deciding a final grade.
  • Find out what a typical performance looks like for your centre. In particular, how sub-groups perform and how accurate predictions usually are against results.
  • Read national transition matrices for GCSE and AS and A-level to understand how students typically perform.

Give the most likely grade, not target grade

The centre assessment grade is the grade you believe would have been generated by the exam itself (plus any non-exam assessment).

It is not a target grade, or the grade you think a student could, on a good day, be capable of. It should:

  • be based on all the available evidence
  • be as fair and defensible as possible
  • use the full range of grades usually awarded in your school – including U.

Tiers may overlap

The centre assessment grade should reflect each student's tier of entry. For example: 9 to 3 for higher tier and 5 to 1, or U, for foundation tier.

However, you may decide to give a higher tier student a centre assessment grade of 4 and a foundation tier student a grade of 5.

Similarly, within each grade, higher tier students do not need to be ranked above foundation tier students.

You may judge, for example, that a foundation tier student with a centre assessment grade of 4 should be ranked above a higher tier student with the same centre assessment grade.

Consider different rates of progress

Remember that students make progress at different rates. Not all students placed in a higher ability set at the start of a course will perform better than students in an initially lower ability class.

You may find it helpful to consider common assessments when judging this.

Be aware of your unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is when we unintentionally favour one person, or group of people, over another without realising (for example in relation to gender, socio-economic status, age, ethnicity or physical or mental disability).

Because we want estimates to be fair and accurate, it’s very important to minimise this unconscious bias when deciding the centre assessment grades and rank order.

Everyone has unconscious biases but there are steps we can take to reduce their effect.

Understand when unconscious bias can happen

Unconscious bias is more likely to happen when we are tired, stressed or rushed.

To reduce this, try to only work on grades and rank orders when you feel you can really give yourself the space. Focusing on one thing at a time and establishing a routine can also really help.

Develop your process and get into a routine

Develop a process upfront to cover any gaps that might introduce bias.

For example, plan how you will weight evidence or what to do if a student’s information is incomplete or unclear.

Also, try not to consider some students in one session and other students in a different session, as that may lead to inconsistencies. Instead, consider one set of evidence in one session, and another set of evidence in a further session.

A consistent process will reduce the likelihood of bias because you’ll have more attention to give to the task than if you are working out the process as you go.

Take your time making decisions

Decisions made slowly and deliberately are less prone to bias than ones made hastily.

So give yourself plenty of time to set provisional estimates and rankings for all students in your teaching group (or if you are standardising across several teaching groups, to review all students taking the subject).

No school performance data for 2020

The Department for Education (DfE) will not be publishing school or performance data in 2020.

This means you can focus on giving a fair, objective grade, based on all information you have about the students you teach.

Further guidance New

Read our advice on creating centre assessment grades for:

Ofqual has also published guidance of teachers, Head of Subjects and Head of Centres on how to make sure judgements are objective