St Edward's School Certificate (SESC)

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Year 10 and 11 pupils at St Edward’s School, Oxford.


SESCs are taught in place of (I)GCSE courses at St Edward's School. They provide a broader skill set than GCSEs, using a wider range of assessment types. The courses are knowledge-rich, whilst explicitly teaching self-management, metacognition, communication and research skills. Each course includes a major self-directed project.
The level of challenge of the courses goes beyond Level 2, facilitating independent study at Sixth Form level and beyond.

Education context

St Edward's School is a coeducational independent boarding school offering a twin-track Sixth Form of A Levels and the International Baccalaureate. All A Level pupils additionally take an EPQ.
All Year 10 and 11 pupils at St Edwards take (I)GCSEs in English, World Literature, Mathematics, Double or Triple Award Science, a Modern Foreign Language and one further GCSE.
In addition, they choose either two SESCs and one more GCSE, or three SESCs.

Awarding providers
  • St Edward’s School Certificate Board

SESC courses are organised into two blocks: Pathways and Perspectives. The courses are structured identically, except that Perspectives courses finish three weeks earlier and then teach a common thinking skills module entitled “Thinking for Yourself” which does not form part of the assessment. Courses begin at the start of Year 10 and finish at the end of the Spring Term in Year 11; results are issued at the same time as (I)GCSEs in August at the end of Year 11.
Each course is structured into between 4 and 6 Units. Within each unit, pupils produce work which contributes to Unit Portfolios, which are taken together at the end to create a Course Portfolio. Assessment is holistic and continuous, so there is no mathematical weighting to units for assessment purposes. The assessment tasks for each unit are mapped against the four Assessment Objectives, so that each Unit Portfolio contains at least two pieces of evidence for each of the four AOs and there is an overall balance of evidence for all AOs in the Course Portfolio.

Subject areas

The following courses are offered:
• Applied Science Pathway
• Art Pathway
• Design and Entrepreneurship Pathway
• Drama Pathway
• Jewellery and Entrepreneurship Pathway
• Music and Music Technology Pathway
• Sports Science Pathway
• Ancient World Perspective
• Big Ideas Perspective
• Classical Languages Perspective
• Global Societies and Environments Perspective
• Historical Inquiry Perspective


SESC courses are designed to be delivered in Years 10 and 11, meeting the descriptor for a Level 2 qualification, but incorporating some aspects of Level 3 in order to facilitate independent study at Sixth Form level and beyond; specifically the statements “Is aware of different perspectives or approaches within the area of study or work” and “Review how effective methods and actions have been.”


SESC courses are graded from 9 to 1 or U, with grades designed to be equivalent to the corresponding GCSE grade by use of the Ofqual Grade Descriptors for 9-1 GCSEs (2016).


SESC courses are built on a model of continuous assessment, with holistic grading of the portfolios against a single assessment grid. A wide variety of assessment types is encouraged, including presentations, videos, performances, individual and group projects, in addition to more traditional forms of assessment. Formal summative examinations are not used.
There are four Assessment Objectives:
• AO1: Knowledge and Skills
• AO2: Development of Ideas
• AO3: Communication
• AO4: Self-Management.
The Course Portfolio for every pupil will typically contain between 20-30 pieces of work with a balance of evidence across the portfolio for each AO; within each AO the pupil is graded from 10 to 1, giving a total score out of 40. After standardisation and moderation and comparison against the Ofqual grade descriptors, grade boundaries are set for each subject by the St Edward’s School Certificate Board.
Special Consideration procedures are in place, following current JCQ guidance.

Procedures are in place to handle enquiries about results (EARs) and appeals against EAR outcomes; these align closely with the JCQ appeal process used for Teacher Assessed Grades in Summer 2021 with a two-stage process; the St Edward’s School Certificate Board is the highest body to which an appeal can be raised.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

The four AOs are equally weighted across the Course Portfolio. Assessment of individual tasks and of Portfolios is continuous and holistic.

Resit arrangements

No resits are permitted. In cases of pupil illness or absence for a part of the course this is handled through the Special Consideration procedure.

Programme size

Pupils receive approximately 160 hours of teaching for each SESC subject.

Key issues for UK HE admissions

All St Edward’s School pupils take between 2-3 SESCs. For the purposes of progression into the Sixth Form at St Edward’s School, SESCs are considered to be equivalent to (I)GCSEs. SESCs are intended to prepare pupils for Sixth Form study and beyond at least as well as their GCSE counterparts, with particular focus on seven key skills:
• Collaboration
• Communication
• Creativity
• Self-Management
• Thinking
• Reflection
• Research

Timing of assessments and results

All SESC courses are completed by the end of the Spring Term in Year 11. Results are published simultaneously with (I)GCSE results in late August.

Qualification dates notes

The qualification is current. The first results will be published in August 2022.

Certification information

Certificates are issued by the St Edward’s School Certificate Board.

Progression information

SESCs are considered to be equivalent to (I)GCSEs for the purposes of progression to Sixth Form study at St Edward’s School. In addition, due to the cross-disciplinary nature of many of the courses, many departments will accept pupils onto A Level and IB courses who may not have taken the corresponding subject in Years 10 and 11 but who have strong results in their SESCs.