Centre assessed grades and rankings – rationale used for science GCSEs


Exams have been cancelled, and students are still going to be awarded GCSE grades.

Normally, grades would be based on 6 exams being completed by students, and the number of marks they score determines where they are in the distribution (i.e. their rank order), and ultimately their grade.

The grades achieved by students are independent of teacher’s views of the students, and dependent solely on the responses they produce to the questions in the exams. How many marks they score depends on:

  • How much knowledge is in their long term memory
  • How much, and the quality of, revision is completed throughout Year 11, including in the last two months
  • Students’ access to resources to support their exam preparation (e.g. quiet space at home, healthy food, good sleep, emotional wellbeing, support from peers)
  • A bit of luck, as the exams assess a sample of the curriculum, which may or may not be the parts they were most well-prepared for

This year the exams aren’t happening. To award grades fairly, we cannot base our grades or rankings on our feelings about the students, because we are human and biased in ways we are and aren’t aware of. A quiet student who we think won’t do well, may have done fantastic revision and scored grades higher than we expected. A bright student may have been overconfident and prepared poorly and scored much lower than we expected.

Looking at last year’s cohort for example, only about a quarter of students achieved exactly the grade they were predicted at AP3. Over three quarters achieved equal to or higher than predicted.

In summary, teachers are OK, but not that good, at predicting grades! Which is generally not a huge problem. Also, teachers know some students better than others.

But that is what we are stuck with this year.

We must accept that the grades awarded will not be particularly valid, and must take pressure off individual teachers so they don’t feel personally responsible for the grades these students achieve. Students will be able to have another go in the autumn.

Therefore we have looked at this cohort’s achievement to date, and the previous cohort’s achievement throughout year 11, to come up with as valid a process as possible.

Centre assessed grades

We were asked to produce “predicted grades” before Easter.

  • Y11 took Paper 1 mocks in December, and Paper 2 mocks are done in class near Easter
  • About half of the classes did not complete Paper 2 mocks before school closed
  • Paper 1 mocks, therefore, represent the most comprehensive GCSE assessment of students’ performance that virtually all students completed

We analysed previous cohort’s Paper 1 mock results in comparison to their final grades

  • This was used to produce detailed guidance on how to come up with a prediction based on Paper 1 mock grades, along with knowledge of the students’ performance and work rate since January, including any Paper 2 mock data that we had
  • This was used to initially set predicted grades
  • Teachers then had the opportunity (through a shared spreadsheet) to amend, with comments, or say they agreed

This produced “predicted grades” which will ultimately become our Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs).


Putting students in a rank order is not something we usually do. When we have large comprehensive assessments it’s easy (simply rank by score in the exams).

We do not want to get students to do any further work to generate grades or rankings, as we cannot control the conditions in which they do this work, and we know there will be huge variability in students electronic access, not to mention the physical environments in which students complete work (all of which is controlled in the classroom or in the exam hall).

We propose to carry out a similar process to that used for generating predicted grades:

  1. Give teachers another chance to look at the predicted grades, with an opportunity to change any (with justification noted)
  2. Sort all students (for each of the 4 courses – combined, biology, chemistry and physics) by their total score in the three Paper 1 mocks (or scale their total up if one or two papers were missed)
  3. Sort by the predicted grade we have assigned
  4. Use this order to rank the students in each grade
  5. Re-sort by class
  6. Share this with the team, giving teachers the opportunity to comment on those in their group (e.g. “should go up” “should be below student X” or “shouldn’t be close to the grade boundary” stating their evidence/justification). Teachers will just be looking at the students in their class at this point.
  7. We (Head of Science and KS4 lead) will then go through this list, making the necessary adjustments to the overall ranking, based on individual teacher’s comments
  8. The full spreadsheet is shared with the team again, and the process repeated. At this point, we may be happy with the ranking but we could repeat as many times as necessary (within the time available).
  9. In four separate, large meetings, we go through the list grade by grade, giving teachers the opportunity to comment on the ranking of students as we go down the list. (This last point added reluctantly – conversations about this stage are ongoing!)

Are you a head of department or member of SLT? Please add your thoughts in the comments!

Daily review activities

While completing the “Science of Learning” course from the National STEM Centre on FutureLearn, one of the activities was to share ideas for daily review (one of the 10 Principles of Instruction).

Here it is:

Made with Padlet

Someone on there mentioned “challenge grids” so I followed the link, loved them, and made a template (based on one made by @ICTevangelist) which I’ve saved here:

Challenge grid template on Dropbox

Some of these links can also be found in my “Shortcuts” page: is.gd/memorybank

My educational values

  1. Everyone has the right to their own ambitions
  2. Nobody has the right to define anyone else’s level of ability
  3. Everyone deserves dignity, respect and space to express themselves
  4. A teacher’s job is to teach as effectively as they can
  5. A student’s job is to learn as much as they can
  6. Hard work and grit are to be celebrated
  7. No one should be lazy or rude
  8. Language is powerful and creates our world
  9. There is only one Earth, and we all live on it. Respect it
  10. Think for yourself

If I am to maintain my integrity in my work life, my actions need to match my values.

This is a first attempt at putting those values into language and I hope to refine them and most importantly to act in line with them, without worrying about who might be upset!

Putting a Contract out on Teachers

Sometimes I think about moving to London. Then I read something like this, think about the walk from my door along the Cornish coast path, and come to my senses.

Also: brilliant idea about a structure for teacher’s contracted hours that puts them in control of their flexibility.

Disappointed Idealist

This is going to be about workload, and in particular, Russell Hobby’s piece about whether teacher contracts and fewer holidays might solve the workload problem. I thought this was an appropriate issue on which to return to the keyboard, not least because the reason I haven’t blogged for a while is largely due to the fact that, this year, I broke myself on the workload wheel.

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GCSE science revision – ideas

As those exams begin to loom large, here are some ideas on how to support students to develop the skill of active revision.

Ian, a science teacher (in a mystery location!) has shared his ideas for all to see; I particularly like his mneumonic “MORSE” and his ideas on how to get best use out of past papers (see below)

  • M neumonics
  • O rganisation
  • R ehearsal / Repetition
  • S implification / Summarising
  • E xtension

For all of the AQA GCSE science units, there are learning checklists saved in the cloud – on Dropbox (No log in required – you can share these links with students for home access. Note that Dropbox is often filtered by school servers, but I can assure you these are accessible from home or on mobile devices)


Ian’s blog about revision is here: GCSE Science Revision – Teaching of Science, and the page where he described some different ways of using exam papers is here.

He and others have also put together some excellent revision booklets, for students to complete. These can also be found via the link above, or directly via is.gd/AQAsciencerevision

And if that wasn’t enough, he’s also made a lesson activity to support students’ skill in answering 6 mark questions. He has blogged a lesson plan, and this is the PowerPoint he uses for it, which can be adapted with different questions.

What a generous fellow he is.

Replacing national curriculum levels

Very useful summary of, and links to, various ideas on how to grasp the opportunity offered by the disappearance of ‘levels’ from the National Curriculum

The Wing to Heaven

Life beyond levels? Life after levels? Life without levels?  Lots of teachers, senior leaders and academics have come up with some interesting ideas for what should replace national curriculum levels. Here’s a summary of some of those ideas.

  • Michael Fordham is a former history teacher and now works at Cambridge’s education department. He has written three articles which put forward a possible system for assessing history – one, two, three.
  • Alison Peacock is the head of Wroxham Primary School, who moved away from levels a while ago. In this post she expresses a worry that any list of aims she writes up will become APP under another name.
  • Alison Peacock was also a part of the NAHT commission who recently released a report on this.
  • The NAHT report attracted quite a few comments.  I’m in broad agreement with David Thomas’s post here, particularly the point he…

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Books: “Flow” by Csikszentmihalyi (1990)

The book Flow

“Flow: the psychology of optimal experience”


Harper Perennial Modern Classics, paperback, published 2008 in New York

When I read it

Summer 2009, quite a lot of it in Bristol where I was beginning my SASP course (science additional specialism programme – gaining an official second specialism in chemistry after teaching A level chemistry for 4 years!) Continue reading “Books: “Flow” by Csikszentmihalyi (1990)”

Consultations on new science GCSEs

[I will update this blog post as I spend more time studying the documents, gathering colleagues’ views and drafting a response.]

1. DfE consultation on the content of the new GCSEs

Here are the proposed subject content and assessment objectives for sciences

Here is the main consultation document

And here is the response form, or you can respond online (registration required)

Here is the main page on gov.uk about this consultation

This consultation closes on 20th August 2013

2. Ofqual consultation on GCSE reform

Here is the consultation document in pdf format

Here is Ofqual’s page about this consultation – there are a number of reports related to the consultation (on GCSE reform, gradingtiering and controlled assessment). You can respond by emailing an amended Word document of the consultation document to consultations@ofqual.gov.uk, or respond online here.

This consultation closes on 3rd September 2013

There’s only one F in Ofsted

Alternatives to Ofsted?

Or just tweaks?

Or scrap it?

You decide.

kevenbartle's Blog

Imagine if the teaching profession en masse were given a magic lamp with their very own genie in it, and that every teacher were given a vote on a collective three wishes. There would, I think, be two certainties and one highly contested third wish. The certainties would be that something pretty awful would befall our stunningly belligerent Secretary of State (imagine something like the fates of Saint Sebastian and Rasputin with turbo boosters on and you’ll get the idea) and that Ofsted would mysteriously disappear never to be seen again.

It’s this last point I want to dwell on in this post: what would we do if Ofsted were to disappear overnight? How would that leave us as a profession and would we really not miss them at all? My instinct is that we need them more than we think we do, at least for now, and that the…

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