But there is another way to do this, reliably, accurately and fairly, that deals with all of these problems as well as allowing private candidates who don’t have a school to vouch for them to get a result. It would involve combining an existing quantitative, nationally standardised test with a teacher/tutor-assessed, qualitative judgement of a student’s progress in their subjects.
CEM’s Yellis and Alis tests (aptitude tests that cover vocabulary, mathematical and non-verbal reasoning to provide ‘indicative’ GCSE or A level grades for students) have been used by many schools for years to measure their value-added. They can be applied to GCSE, A level, PreU and IB exams but VTQs may need a different solution, as the correlation between MidYIS/Yellis/Alis and BTECs is weak.
The advantages of using CEM tests to determine grades are that they are nationally standardised data that will result in a normal distribution of grades comparable to recent years. Given that they are externally assessed it removes the need for teachers to make potentially biased judgements about grades and allows private candidates to sit them and get a grade. They also tell us what the students are likely to have achieved if exams had happened (one of the things Ofqual didn’t want teachers to try and guess). Another bonus is that they are easy to administer, take less than an hour, give quick results (48hrs) and could be retaken on appeal within the summer term timeframe.
CEM say that the indicative grades should be used alongside school assessment, so perhaps schools could award a 'diploma' in each subject (say Pass/Merit/Distinction) to indicate a student’s engagement and progress in their subjects if the indicative grade is felt not to recognise that.
This combination of a meaningful, nationally standardised ‘result’ (that is based on the student’s ability) with an assessment of their study skills and application made by the school has reliability, accuracy and fairness built into it. It would provide sixth forms, universities and employers with two sets of data on students (quantitative and qualitative) that would allow them to assess their suitability for courses and jobs. It also allows schools to keep teaching right to the end of term and catch up on missed content so that students can make a more seamless transition to either sixth form, university or employment.