2021 Assessment Guidelines: What you need to know (from OCR)

Last week, I joined other RS teachers (virtually) for a Q/A session with Ewan Brady (from OCR) who tried to shed some light on the final weeks ahead. Here is a summary of what was said: 


  • Use a ‘range’ of different types of evidence from various parts of the course. Be “consistent as possible” – apply the same across all students (including setting the same questions if a student misses original assessment). 
  • “Most recent evidence is most accurate” – Holistic view at end.  A “greater weight to the more recent.”  
  • There is no minimum or maximum amount of evidence “not a specific number.”  Provide enough for a “clear picture” but essentially it is based on what each individual teacher/ centre “class as sufficient.” There is no “hierarchy of evidence.” 

Setting and marking assessments: 

  • Do not use 2020 grade boundaries as the exam was “set to a different standard”. 
  • No expectation that your grades should be capped. Not based on previous years (historical data). 
  • Be cautious of grading individual essays. 
  • If you have adapted your own questions following “Ofqual centre devised tasks” guidelines, whilst this is an “added complication” as you have to use your own mark schemes, apply the levels of response and remain fair and consistent to all your students. 
  • Final grading is based on an “overall impression [of] what you have actually seen in front of you.”  

Key message repeated throughout is that it is “up to you how you organise it [and] what you include.” Grading should be based on “performance over range and time and professional judgement.”  

Provided by the exam board: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHnkck3V0TA 

I left the meeting feeling supported by OCR but I still have a few concerns:

Firstly, when looking at the November 2020 grade boundaries (which are generous) I wonder why we can’t use these? That year group was only affected from the end of March with the first lockdown and most content had been covered at this point. However, this current year group has gone through two major lockdowns and roughly 6 months of virtual lessons, yet we are advised to look to the 2019 boundaries for guidance, which were for students not in these conditions? Now I appreciate the assessments we are currently doing are not fully representative of a summer exam but still it seems that we want to make allowances for this year group (releasing the exam questions and cancelling ‘exams’) but then following boundaries which are in no way similar to this year group. 

My second thought is that teachers are working so hard to standardise their marking within institutions but how can we ensure we are consistent over centres? How do I know my marking is not too harsh or lenient compared with a teacher in Surrey or Newcastle? I know we are using the exemplar materials but these do not really help when many of the answers do not correspond with the questions/ mark schemes provided. It is, as Ewan said, down to teacher’s judgement and professionalism but this does not give me comfort that we have been provided enough guidance to avoid such elevated levels of subjectivity. In ‘normal’ years, exam markers follow the same questions, same mark schemes and standardise all together with an experienced marker as a checker throughout the process. Again, I know this year is unique but we are still determining these students’ futures based on marking assessments, so how do I know my marking is the same as other teachers? 

Finally, how do we know our evidence is fair across centres? Maybe I just like specific guidelines to follow but I would much rather have had a black and white, no gaps, run down of how to assess students in these final weeks. Gathering evidence over two years to build a picture is acceptable but since most weight is on these final assessments, as a holistic view of their performance, I would have preferred more guidance. I know that there are no guidelines or specifics as every centre/ student has had a different lockdown experience but all the grades mean the same to universities at the end. 

I left the meeting with the words from Hunger Games running through my mind: May the odds be ever in your favour!  

The slides that were shared to encourage discussion/ questions: 

Important links shared: 

Thank you to Ewan for patiently answering all our questions.  

If anyone needs any support or would like to discuss anything, please feel free to contact me 😊. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.