Teaching qualifications

Teachers assessed grades in 2021 – student and teacher experiences

Two Ofqual reports published today describe students’ and teachers’ experiences of teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) in the summer of 2021.

Summer 2021 exams have been cancelled. Pupils’ grades for GCSE, AS and A levels and many professional qualifications were based on teachers’ judgement.

The TAGs were based on a range of evidence produced by the students, and only on the content they were taught.

Ofqual conducted a survey in 2021 after TAGs were submitted and before students got their results in August.

A total of 1,785 faculty members and 550 students responded to the survey. The researchers also interviewed 39 teachers and 14 students to learn more about their experiences and opinions.

Among other findings, the survey showed:

  • 57% of students said too much time was spent on assessments
  • 4-6 pieces of evidence were used
  • most of the evaluations were carried out under conditions similar to those of an exam

Different schools and colleges have taken different approaches to setting and scoring assessments and deciding grades. Almost all of the teachers believed that the grades they set were accurate.

Responding students expressed concerns about the pressure they felt from the assessment process and the possibility that different schools and colleges might take different approaches.

The majority of teachers who responded told us that the process was often stressful and time-consuming. They had no desire to undertake TAGs again in this form.

Chief Regulator Ofqual, Dr Jo Saxton, said:

We know from our research that teachers have worked incredibly hard to assign grades in the exceptional circumstances of summer 2021 and we are grateful to them. TAGs were needed to allow more than a million students to get on with their lives, but our research highlights the added burden on teachers and students.

It is great that formal exams and assessments have taken place this year, and again I want to thank the teachers and pay tribute to the resilience of the students.

Another Ofqual report published today examines the statistical alignment between GCSE subjects and A Levels in 2021 compared to previous years. This work follows an analysis published in the summer of 2020.

TAGs and Center Assessment Ratings (CAGs) from last year in 2020 generally yielded higher ratings. The results suggest that the relative difficulty of subjects varied somewhat more between 2021 and 2020 than is typical between normal consecutive years of exams.