What is the critical factor in determining awards this year – estimates or the SQA’s statistical modelling?
What is the statistical modelling for?
What is involved in the modelling?
Will the SQA overturn individual estimates?
Can I simply submit estimates in the usual manner, rather than meet the new requirements?
What happens if a student does not get the estimated award?
Should estimates be shared with pupils and parents?
Should I be trying to generate new evidence to support estimates?
Can I be instructed to go into school to prepare estimates?
Can I go into school to collect evidence to support my estimates if I wish?
What about the Government directive about essential work only?
Can I be asked to attend at school in order to facilitate meetings to discuss estimates?
What if our assessment records are not online?
What if I do not have adequate IT facilities at home?
1. What is the critical factor in determining awards this year – estimates or the SQA’s statistical modelling?
Without doubt, the critical factor is the estimate submitted by a teacher based upon their professional judgement, using all available evidence and teacher knowledge of pupils. The focus must be on getting estimates right in the interests of students.
2. What is the statistical modelling for?
Primarily it is so that SQA can validate the awards made utilising professional judgement in order to boost confidence in the outcomes. Our view is that this may provide useful protection for teachers in the event of any heightened post-results scrutiny of their estimates by parents, students or SMTs.
3. What is involved in the modelling?
The EIS is not involved in any of the operational detail of the modelling but from our collective knowledge we can surmise that it will probably involve approaches such as looking at departments’ previous concordance between estimate and outcome (data from the past 3 years is being issued to schools to help the actual estimate process), analysing progression routes for previous awards to the next level, looking at distribution curves, etc.
4. Will the SQA overturn individual estimates?
The EIS view is that statistical modelling should be used only to bring added reassurance to the system, not to overturn professional judgements. If apparent anomalies are thrown up by analysis, that should trigger a professional dialogue between the SQA and centre to ascertain the reason for any variation. It would be disastrous to the integrity of the awards if professional judgements were being challenged on any significant scale.
Setting grade boundaries is not an exact science even when there is hard data in the shape of percentage marks; the EIS view is that it would be foolish to attempt such an exercise based on statistical modelling.
There is also a strong equity issue at play. Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will have suffered most as a result of the lockdown, and given what we know of the impact of poverty on attainment many such pupils may be on the cusp of “grade boundaries” – it would be unacceptable for statistical modelling to deprive such pupils of awards which their teachers had judged them to be worthy of.
5. Can I simply submit estimates in the usual manner, rather than meet the new requirements?
The short answer is “No” as the new arrangement is to deal with the absence of exams as a result of COVID 19 and represents the sole basis upon which awards will be made this year. Not complying with them would risk No Awards being made for students. The decision to sub divide bands and to create a ranking order was made by the SQA. It is overly complex and perhaps indicates an insecurity on the part of the SQA regarding professional judgement. Having said that, the EIS cannot advise members not to adhere to the SQA guidelines as that would be tantamount to industrial action and would leave individuals and the union exposed, potentially, to legal action.
6. What happens if a student does not get the estimated award?
There will be a free appeals system. The SQA has yet to publish details as to how this will operate but clearly from a school’s perspective it will be based on the evidence which led to the estimate in the first place, and it is difficult to see how hard evidence would not prevail.
7. Should estimates be shared with pupils and parents?
Absolutely not. Estimates are different this year as they form the fundamental basis of the award. Post results, parents and pupils may access the estimates but at this stage in order to prevent undue pressure on teachers, estimates should not be shared. Local Authorities have legal advice available to them to support this position.
8. Should I be trying to generate new evidence to support estimates?
No. The SQA guidance makes clear that there is no need to carry out remotely additional prelims or assessments to support estimates. Indeed, it goes as far as to suggest that any improvement demonstrated in remotely generated material needs to be considered carefully. There is an important equity issue here as not all pupils will have equal access to the required IT equipment or have home circumstances which enable remote engagement.
9. Can I be instructed to go into school to prepare estimates?
No – schools are closed as places of work (apart from Hub centres). You cannot be instructed to attend there for the purpose of meetings etc.
It would be your decision as to whether you need to access any classroom materials. All the caveats around self-isolation, underlying health conditions, caring responsibilities, travel etc. are still applicable. The default therefore is that you should not be going into a school unless you deem it to be essential.
10. Can I go into school to collect evidence to support my estimates if I wish?
If you judge it to be essential to collect classroom evidence from your school, that may be possible providing that an adequate risk assessment (which should be conducted with the involvement of the School Rep and/ or Health and Safety Reps) has taken place to ensure health and safety within the building (e.g. maximum numbers at any one time, sanitising measures in place, etc.) and, critically, that measures are in place to ensure social distancing is operational.
Any access must be discussed and agreed with school management / the Local Authority, taking full account of public health guidance. (In some areas local agreements / guidelines have been reached through the LNCT.)
In the event of any member being concerned that health and safety priorities are not being met in the context of the current social distancing and lockdown arrangements, they should raise the matter with the School Rep and/or Local Association Secretary as necessary.
11. What about the Government directive about essential work only?
Collecting or viewing the necessary SQA evidence to enable candidate awards would be essential work – nothing else would be however e.g. evidence for report writing. Any visit to a school building should be a one-off event.
12. Can I be asked to attend at school in order to facilitate meetings to discuss estimates?
No – all meetings should be facilitated remotely.
The only case for people going into buildings that are otherwise shut in the interests of public health and H&S, would be where teachers need essential evidence to devise estimates at home, as outlined above.
Any departmental review/moderation should be done online.
All other necessary meetings should be done virtually.
Where signatures are advised, digital signatures should be used.
13. What if our assessment records are not online?
Where assessment records are not currently online, PTs who are able to, could access departments to retrieve these and send electronically to teachers working at home. An SMT member or other designated person who can do so could agree to step in to access material within departments where PTs themselves are not able to.
14. What if I do not have adequate IT facilities at home?
The onus is on the school/local authority to provide any teachers who do not have it, with the necessary technology and software to enable the safe completion of estimates.