Exams 2020

/ Dan Sears

As I have mentioned before ‘These are strange times’. Having to wander round Tesco’s wearing a mask, finding myself comparing different types of hand gel and walking around with my invisible 2 metre force field. I wonder if things will ever be as they were.

As the schools shut in March, even during the initial speech I wondered what would happen with the exams. As soon as the thought had crossed my mind, it was announced all summer exams at both Key Stage 2, 4 and 5 have been cancelled. I had my own ideas on how the government would manage this and initially using teacher predictions whilst submitting rank order information started to look like the basis of a plan. For the school that I used to work in, this would have only been their 4th set of results so when they spoke about looking at past performance of students schools to help moderate the students grades I started to feel a little un-nerved. What followed was 4 months of silence from the government with the exam boards asking for information to be uploaded directly to themselves. Schools went back to focusing on the practical elements of bubbles, spacing and just being able to stay open. We supported schools with the development of a Covid dashboard. A quick and easy way to get the attendance data out and reported back to the DfE. As other year groups returned, we were able to extend this and even now we are ready for the next development if required.

It was around the end of July that the government began to mention their algorithm that would be applied to the school submitted information. This mystical dark art would enable moderation to take place without having any background information or past specific subject attainment on the actual children receiving their grades.

We were reassured by the government that everything was fine, and it will all work. This was until the A-Level results came out on the 13th August. Interestingly the government mentioned a figure that over 90% of grades had been at or only dropped by 1 level from the teacher’s prediction. This statement soon disappeared as individual, and very articulate, sixth form students mentioned their results and how it had differed from the grading given by the school.

There is nothing I hate more than being un-prepared and I my heart goes out to every member of school staff faced last week with a student trying to get accepted on their place at university and wanting answers as they were downgraded. The teachers had to say ‘I don’t know’ as they were receiving the same response from the government.

It was the responsibility of my wife to collate a number of grades from a number of school for the students she works with, what should have been a quick process, even now is not complete. Blank spaces on grade sheets to match the equally blank faces on our colleagues working for the Department of Education.

As the Education Consultant for Bromcom I was trying to keep up with the shifting sand guidance that was coming directly from government as well as the boards and Ofqual. It was then I realised that they didn’t have a common plan. The more I read, the more confused I became, and I consider myself an educated man. We had U-Turn after U-Turn and guidance posted and then withdrawn. Comments from journalists that ‘they had heard from ministers’ only to be changed. In the space of hours.

Here at Bromcom our primary focus is for our customers and supporting them as best we can during these tricky times. When it was announced that BTEC grades could not be issues to pupils we sprung into action. We were able to issue out information to our customers that we would be changing how our reporting would work to manage this change. The implementation took place over night, with customers being informed every step of the way. The positive feedback we saw on social media clearly highlights how responsive the team here is. We had lots of positive comments, from the smallest secondary school to the largest MAT thanking us for our hard work in helping them get over yet another hurdle.

As well as our own customers we realise that there are other MIS systems out here and we have developed a product that is free for the next three years to all MATs and LA’s. Vision – X enable you to aggregate the data from across the MIS instances within your schools and bring dashboard of information together all in one place to support you with seeing the bigger pictures on areas such as attendance and staff absence across all of your school. As Covid continues to shape our world, products such as this, available in the cloud are essential for supporting you as the pandemic develops.

As the dust begins to settle we continue to work with our customers as they get ready for pupils to return to school. I, like everyone else is unsure what the future will hold, but I believe that the customers that use Bromcom are truly in the best hands.

Stay safe.

Please contact [email protected] if you would like to find out further information on Vision – X for your Trust or LA.

/ Dan Sears