Teacher assessment in 2021

The majority of Covid restrictions have been removed in English schools. Rules have also been eased elsewhere in the UK, but some measures are being retained for the moment.

Staff and students without symptoms in England are no longer asked to test for Covid twice-weekly. Secondary school pupils also don’t need to wear masks. The legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test is also being removed, although it is still recommended.

The information in the support article below was current at the time it was published. You may still find it useful for reference purposes.


Teacher assessment in 2021 will be a topic which will draw much attention. 

The Department for Education (DfE) explains as part of steps taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the government has announced that all statutory KS1 and 2 assessments, tests and GCSEs, AS levels, A levels, other general qualifications and some vocational and technical qualifications due to take place in schools and colleges in England in spring and summer 2021 would not go ahead as planned.

Students taking GCSE, AS and A levels regulated by Ofqual, should be awarded grades based on an assessment by their teachers.

In this article, we look at the changes and link to further information available.

Teacher assessment in 2021: assessment evidence

The DfE explains that teachers can use a range of evidence to make a judgement of the grade they are performing at. 

Students should only be assessed on what they have been taught, ensuring sufficient coverage of the curriculum to enable progression. When determining the grade, teachers should reflect the standard at which the student is performing now, not their potential.

Teachers should use the time remaining to balance continued teaching with any assessments they want to undertake. Work done at home can be included as evidence to support a teacher’s judgement if it cannot be produced in the school environment because of the pandemic, and where teachers are confident that it is a student’s own work.

Type of assessment evidence

The DfE recommends the following range of evidence is used, where available:

  • Student work produced in response to assessment materials provided by the exam board, including groups of questions, past papers or similar materials such as practice or sample papers
  • Non-exam assessment (NEA) work (often referred to as coursework), even if this has not been fully completed
  • Student work produced in centre-devised tasks that reflect the specification, that follow the same format as exam board materials and have been marked in a way that reflects exam board mark schemes – this can include:
    • substantial class or homework (including those that took place during remote learning)
    • internal tests taken by pupils
    • mock exams taken over the course of study
  • Records of a student’s capability and performance over the course of study in performance-based subjects such as music, drama and PE
  • Records of each student’s progress and performance over the course of study

Deciding how to balance different sources of evidence

The DfE explains that schools should bear in mind the following factors in deciding how to balance different sources of evidence.

When the evidence was produced

More recent evidence is likely to be more representative of student performance, although there may be exceptions.

What students were asked to do

Centres should aim to use consistent sources of evidence for a class or cohort that relate closely to the specification requirements.

Some tiered GCSEs specify content for higher tier students only, and in all qualifications, centres will need to provide accessible questions and tasks for lower attaining students and appropriately demanding questions and tasks for higher attaining students to support higher grades.

How the evidence was produced

Centres should be confident that work produced is the student’s own and that the student has not been given inappropriate levels of support to complete it, either in the centre, at home or with an external tutor.

Exam boards will investigate instances where it appears that evidence is not authentic.

Teacher assessment in 2021: making a judgement

Teachers should take account of the standard of any coursework undertaken by students in their overall judgement, including partially completed non-exam assessments where disrupted learning stopped them from completing it. Where this is the case, students should not be penalised.

Teachers should use these non-exam assessments in accordance with exam board mark schemes. Depending on the content they covered, the contribution that the non-exam assessments make to students’ overall grade should in the government’s view remain broadly similar to a normal year.

Exam boards will publish guidance in March, so teachers have a clear understanding of how to make fair and consistent judgements. Exam boards will also provide schools and colleges with support, guidance, and training on how to minimise the risk of bias and malpractice.

As far as possible, teachers should use the same types of evidence to form a judgment. When assessing different students in their cohort for a subject, schools and colleges should make formal reasonable adjustments for disabled students. If evidence is produced from assessments taken earlier in the course where formal reasonable adjustments were not in place, centres will be asked to take that into account in their judgement.

Assessment materials

The exam boards will provide assessment materials at the end of March. These will include sets of questions organised to help teachers quickly find questions in the topics they have taught.

These questions will be provided with mark schemes, exemplar responses and data on past performance where available, to assist teachers in making fair and consistent judgements of the standard of a student’s performance.

These materials will be available for all subjects apart from art and design.

Teacher assessment in 2021: appeals

Every student will have the right to appeal their grade if they so wish. Before a grade is submitted, teachers should make students aware of the evidence they are using to assess them. Students will then have the opportunity to confirm the evidence is their own work and make their teachers aware of any mitigating circumstances they believe should be taken into account.

If a student wishes to appeal, centres should undertake an initial process review to check all processes were followed correctly and no errors were made. If the school or college finds an error, they can submit a revised grade to the exam board.

If the student still wants to appeal, they will ask their school or college to submit a formal appeal to the exam board for them. The exam board will check the centre followed its own processes and exam board requirements as well as reviewing the evidence used to form their judgement and providing a view as to whether the grade awarded was a reasonable exercise of academic judgement.

If the exam board finds the grade is not reasonable, they will determine the alternative grade and inform the centre.

In cases of disagreement between the centre and the exam board, or if the student disagrees with the centre or the exam board, the case can be referred to Ofqual’s Exams Procedure Review Service (EPRS). The exam board’s decision on the grade following appeal will stand unless the EPRS finds that the exam board has made a procedural error.

Appeals are not likely to lead to adjustments in grades where the original grade is a reasonable exercise of academic judgement supported by the evidence. Grades can go up or down as the result of an appeal.

Accountability and performance tables

The DfE explains qualification grades achieved using alternative assessment arrangements in 2020 and 2021 will not be used to produce the normal suite of institution level performance measures (for example Attainment 8, or level 3 value added) and Qualification Achievement Rates (QARs).

Schools and colleges should not use the 2020 or 2021 results data as part of their teacher performance management process.

Qualifications achieved in 2020 and 2021 will not count towards performance measures in future years (where students who are not due to be reported this year, for example, those entering GCSEs early in year 10 in 2021, would not be included in any school level data in 2022).

Further support

If you are an Edapt subscriber and you have been alleged of exam malpractice you can contact us for further information and support.

We have also published another article about the topic of exam maladministration here

Was this article helpful?

The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.