Getting the Grades in 2021: How to reach your potential in this year's GCSE and A-Level exams

Getting the Grades in 2021: How to help your child reach their potential in this year’s GCSE and A-Level exams

It's been a tough two years for the current year 11s and 13s, but last week we found out how their GCSE and A-Level grades will be awarded. That means we're into the last few months when they can demonstrate to their teachers what they can do, and therefore what grades they deserve.

In this article, I'm going to outline:

  • What we know about how GCSE and A-Level grades will be awarded in 2021
  • What we don't know about how schools are going to implement the guidelines
  • What will probably happen over the coming weeks
  • What young people can do over the coming weeks to show their teachers what they're capable of

Let's go!

What we know about how GCSE and A-Level grades will be awarded in 2021

This is what we know.
How you'll get your grades in 2021

How grades will be worked out

  • Grades will be awarded by schools – your child's teacher will work in collaboration with the other teachers in their school to fairly assign grades to all the students in the school
  • Unlike last year, an algorithm will not be used to moderate the grades
  • Schools are encouraged to keep teaching and using their normal assessment tools for the rest of the academic year
  • Students will only be assessed on what they've been taught. (Heads of schools and colleges will be asked to confirm that students have been taught enough content for them to progress to the next stage of their education. This is to ensure that your child has a strong enough foundation to be able to cope with the subject at the next level).
  • Teachers will share with students and their families what evidence their grade is based on
  • Private candidates can work with a school, college or exam centre to provide evidence for them to be graded
  • Grades have to be submitted by schools, to the exam boards, by 18th June

What evidence can be used to support grades given

  • Mocks, tests, coursework and work already done can be used as evidence. This means that things like mocks will continue, and students are encouraged to finish non-exam assessments and coursework wherever possible.
  • Teachers will be asked to submit a separate grade for science practicals and language speaking assessments, based on what's been done over the two years
  • Art and design grades will be based on each students' portfolio, whether it is complete or not
  • Exam boards will be providing a question bank which schools can use to assess students on the work they've done
  • Results will be based on work already completed, as well as future work. This means it's well worth students keeping going and trying to do their best – they CAN change their grades between now and the summer.

Results

  • A-Level results day will be 2 weeks early on 10th August, GCSE results day will be on 12th August
  • If you're unhappy with your child's grade, you will be able to appeal. The first step will be to appeal to your child's school or college

Source – How qualifications will be awarded in 2021 by Simon Lebus and Infographic – How GCSEs and A-Levels Will Be Awarded in Summer 2021.

What we don't know about how the grades are going to be awarded

Whilst the information above gives us a lot more detail than we knew before, there are still significant things that we don't know.

The most important part of this is how each individual school is going to implement the above for their students. This includes:

  • Which types of evidence they are going to use e.g. just more formal types of assessment such as mocks, tests and coursework, or will they use homework exercises as well?
  • Over what period of time will they take evidence from?
  • How they will weight more recent evidence against earlier evidence in the course
  • How long they will carry on teaching new material before they have to make final decisions about grades and submit them on June 18th
  • Whether existing plans for mocks will be changed in light of this announcement and how grades will be awarded to give more teaching time and assess later in the spring

What will probably happen over the coming weeks

Here, I'm going to set out a timetable for what I expect to happen in schools for year 11s and year 13s between now and 18th June, when schools have to submit grades to exam boards. This is just my prediction of what schools can sensibly do in the time they have left to them before 18th June. It's really important that you understand what your child's school is planning, once they've had a chance to put that plan together and publish it.

What to expect this academic year

8th March – Return to School

  • Regrouping and a focus on well-being, as well as seeing where students have got to with their at-home learning
  • Schools will carry on teaching the curriculum so that students finish their courses having covered as much of the specification as possible. This will serve them when they move on to the next level of their education.
  • Some schools are planning mocks for this week

Easter holidays

  • Students will be encouraged to revise what they've been taught so they're ready to take any final assessments or exams

April

  • Once students return after the Easter holidays, I would expect schools to keep teaching for the rest of April, covering more of the syllabus for each subject and maybe looking at revision

May

  • I would expect schools to give students a final chance to prove what level they're working at during May, up until half-term begins on 28th May
  • Schools may choose to use the question banks set by exam boards to set different types of assessment. For some classes and schools these might be informal, in-class assessments. Other schools might choose to run formal exams in exam halls. It will depend very much on the demographics of the school and what will serve the students at that school best

June

  • The first week of June is half-term – teachers will probably use this time to mark any final assessments taken in May
  • The remaining two weeks of June will be used by schools to make final decisions about what grade to award each student and get this data ready to submit to exam boards
  • Students may be asked to produce some final bits of work to support the grade teachers want to give them
  • The teaching of subject content will either stop, or teachers will start preparing students for the next stage during lesson time

What your child can do to get the best grades possible

In the context of all the above information, we can help your child put together a plan, or set of intentions, that will help them make the most of the time left available to them to improve their grade. This plan is not about putting undue pressure on them, but setting their direction so that they can achieve what they want/need but also have some much-needed balance in their lives.

1. Focus on what they want to get out of this year

The year since the pandemic took over our lives has been a confusing, distracting and often demoralising time for our young people (and us older people, too!). This means your teen may have lost sight of what they want to achieve, or decided that their dreams are no longer possible because of the disruption to their education.

Now would be a really good time to remember what they really want, and reset their focus on achieving that goal.

They might have had a university offer that's a bit of a stretch but they really want to put the effort in to see if they can achieve it.

They might have thought that with the disruption to their GCSE science learning they don't stand a chance of doing science A-Levels and becoming a doctor. Don't be so quick to write this off! Where there's a will, there's a way.

The pandemic might have changed the direction they want to go for good. This is great – life experience is what challenges and resets our direction. Help them find out what they need to do to achieve their new dream.

But, most of all be positive about the opportunity that is still open to them to learn, improve and grow in their achievements this academic year. Every lesson, day and week can move them towards a better place.

Be positive about the opportunity that is still open to them to learn, improve and grow in their achievements this academic year. Every lesson, day and week can move them towards a better place. Click To Tweet

If you need help with resetting your child's focus and maintaining a positive outlook, check out the Boost Your Motivation and Upgrade Your Mindset modules in The Extraordinaries Club.

2. Be consistent

Setting goals is one thing, but achieving them is another. If your child is determined to get the most out of the time left this year, they need to make sure that their behaviour is aligned with achieving their goals. This means being consistent about their learning. Here are some examples:

  • Consistently turning up to learn with a growth mindset, being curious about how they can improve and move forward with every lesson
  • Putting in place a weekly routine that helps them consistently do the homework and revision that's set to make the most of the opportunity of tests, mocks and assessments and learn as much as they can from their courses in the time that's left, but also balances their academic studies with their well-being
  • Put in place some good study habits such as reading through class notes at the end of every day and doing the five-minute revision challenge
  • Creating a revision timetable for the Easter holidays (and beyond!) that balances their need to revise with their need to rest and recuperate before the final push

The Manage Your TimeHone Your Habits and Upgrade Your Mindset modules in The Extraordinaries Club can help with all of the above.

3. Revise during the Easter holidays

With the grades being submitted by schools on 18th June, it means that pretty much all assessments, tests and mocks will have to be done between the Easter holidays and the May half-term. This means that the Easter holidays will be the main time students are able to dedicate to revision.

If you're interested in signing up for my Easter Holiday Revision Kickstarter Workshop where I'll help your child put together a personalised plan for their Easter holiday revision sign-up to the waiting list. I'll be sure to let you know when we're ready to take sign-ups for the workshop. If you want help before then, there are recordings of previous Revision Kickstarters, as well as the Plan Your RevisionOptimise Your Revision Techniques and Revise For Results modules in The Extraordinaries Club. You can join now and make use of these today.

4. Praise their effort

Your child needs to know they're doing the right thing and that their efforts are recognised. Make sure you keep praising their effort and letting them know you're proud of them for how they're approaching their studies in this final stretch of their GCSE or A-Level journey.

5. Have something to look forward to

As a parent, I strongly suggest organising something that students can look forward to after this is all over – in May half-term, after 18th June or during the summer holidays. You'll have to get guidance from your child's school about how much time they'll be expecting to be in school after 18th June.

Having something arranged that's going to be fun and a complete break will be really motivating for your teen – a reward for all their hard work.

Getting the Grades in 2021 – Over to you!

I hope this article has helped you to understand:

  1. How your child's grades will be awarded this year
  2. What you can expect from the rest of the academic year
  3. What your child can to do get the best grades possible

Now, it's over to you to help them move forward with clarity and focus to do the best they can. If you or your child feel you'd like some additional support, that's what The Extraordinaries Club is for. It's my online hub where I support students and their parents to reach their academic potential, in the best way for them.

Click here to find out more about the club

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