Exam boards will only be required to offer AS-level exams in five subjects during this year’s autumn exam series, Ofqual has confirmed.
Autumn exams will be open to any student receiving a teacher assessment grade this year, or those who an exam board “reasonably believes would have entered for the exams in summer 2021 had they taken place”.
Boards will also be expected to give the “benefit of any doubt” to private candidates, to address “concerns that they might not be able to provide evidence of their intention to take exams in the summer had they taken place”.
Ofqual will require boards to offer all exams in all GCSE and A-level subjects, but will only have to offer AS exams in biology, chemistry, further maths, maths and physics.
These were the only subjects in which autumn exams were taken by more than 100 students last year, Ofqual said.
Each exam board “can decide whether to offer exams in the other AS subjects if it wishes to do so”.
Ofqual will also allow, “but not require” boards to offer GCSE English language and maths exams in January 2022 “for students who were eligible to enter the autumn exams in those subjects but did not do so”.
Response confirms arrangements for autumn exam series
The consultation response also confirms other proposals set out earlier this year. AS and A-level exams will be held in October and GCSEs in November and December, slightly later than they were last year.
Exams will be in their usual format with no adaptations, though “reasonable adjustments” will still be made for disabled students. Grades will be based solely on exam performance, apart from for art and design subjects.
Following the exams, pupils will be able to request replacement certificates showing the higher of an autumn 2021 or summer 2021 grade.
However, exam boards will not be required to issue replacement certificates to students who received a grade in summer 2020 and who receive a higher grade in this autumn’s exam series.
The decision to proceed with this proposal comes despite 58 per cent of non-exam board respondents to the consultation stating that they disagreed with it. Only 25 per cent agreed.
In its response, Ofqual argued that had exams taken place this summer, students with a grade from 2020 but who took exams this year “would not have been able to receive a replacement certificate to show the better of the summer 2020 and the summer 2021 grade”.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL leaders’ union, said the creation of the autumn series “creates more problems than it solves”, and would put “more pressure” on schools.
The “whole point” of cancelling summer exams was because Covid had affected learning to “varying extents”, Barton said, adding that would “still be the case in the autumn and the idea of an exam series at that point in time is just as problematic as it would have been in the summer”.
“It cannot possibly be a level playing field and those who were worst affected by the pandemic will still be at a disadvantage.”