The death of controlled assessments and GCSE grades led to increased pressure on schools, their leadership, departments and students to pull out all the stops in a terminal examination – in English, four of them!
The days of dishing out past papers a few weeks before Year 11 leave or once in Year 10 at Christmas are over.
Relieving staff of coursework moderation has been replaced by the heavy burden of exam marking three to six times a year.
Many schools have seen the light and are outsourcing marking and have gone so far to publish exam schedules on websites, newsletters and social media outlets.
I did lead English across three federated schools for 3 years and have led English departments since 1996 until becoming freelance in 2015. I still mark exams for four exam boards and numerous schools though – so I’ve definitely walked the walk, so to speak.
So if a cruel fairy waved a wand and plonked me back in a school of 800 with a department of five tasked with tasing attainment, this is what I’d do in terms of assessment calendar.
November (just after half term): full set of exams, set in lessons in controlled conditions split into one hour chunks. September onwards would see students being taught about the exam contents and coached.
March (just after half term again, as pupils and staff are exhausted): full set of exams, on a timetabled fortnight with the hall being used.
June: see March.
November or December: full schedule of internal exams, in a mock month.
March: see above.
Now this blog post will hardly win the Booker Prize for originality, I know, but it does give some decent guidance (I think) from a classroom veteran.
You can go the whole hog and outsource the lot or have a pick n mix approach with your departments.
What you will have though is consistent, objective marking with a list of useful bullet points for staff, students and school leaders to use.
Better still, that department will smile from being unburdened and your exam results will rise.