Exams and accountability in 2021: The proposals in full

The government has finally announced today its plans for next year’s exams, when Ofsted will resume and other outstanding issues such as league tables and primary assessment.

Here’s your speed read of what’s been announced.

*It’s important to note this information is all based on a press release from the government, which had limited details. While some further information may be published today, the government has said more details on exams won’t come until “in the new year”.


Exams: Grades to be as generous as 2020

In “recognition of the challenges faced by students this year”, and on top of the three-week delay in exams, the government will:

1. Allow more generous grading – which will be “in line with national outcomes from 2020, so students this year are not disadvantaged”

2. Under this system, every subject will “receive the same level of generosity so that the approach doesn’t advantage some students over others depending on their subject choice”

3. Give students advance notice of some topics covered in in GCSE, AS and A-levels to focus revision (no further details of which topics, or in which exams)

4. Allow exam aids, such as formula sheets, in “some exams” to give students “more confidence and reducing the amount of information they need to memorise”

5. Additional exams as a second chance for students to sit a paper if they miss the main exam because of illness or self-isolation

6. In “extreme cases” where a student has a “legitimate reason to miss all their papers”, then a “validated teacher informed assessment” can be used (but only “once all chances to sit an exam have passed”)

7. A new expert group to look at “differential learning and monitor the variation in the impact of the pandemic on students across the country” (but regional grading has been ruled out as it’s unfair)

8. Students taking vocational and technical qualifications will see “some adaptions to ensure parity”

Read our news story on the changes here.


Ofsted: ‘Supportive’ monitoring inspections for some schools

1. Full, graded inspections will not resume until the summer term at the earliest

2. From January, Ofsted will run “supportive” monitoring inspections to schools and colleges rated ‘inadequate’, and some that are ‘requires improvement’ (as revealed by Schools Week, this is inspections without grades).

3. The inspections will focus on “important issues like curriculum, remote education and pupil attendance, particularly of vulnerable children”

4. Ofsted will have the power to inspect schools if they have “serious concerns”, including over safeguarding and remote education

Read our news story on the changes here.


Primary assessments: Year 6 SATs to go ahead, but results not published

1. At key stage 1: SATs in reading and maths and the grammar, punctuation and spelling (GPS) test will be removed, as will the teacher assessment in science. But teacher assessments in reading, writing and maths will still go ahead

2. At key stage 2: the GPS test and science teacher assessment will also be removed, but all other tests and assessments will go ahead

3. The phonics screening check for year 1 pupils and any year 2 pupils who didn’t reach the expected standard in the special autumn check this year will go ahead

4. But schools can take a “flexible approach” to the administration of the key stage 2 tests and phonics check by extending the timetable by a week (until May 26 and June 25, respectively)

5. The multiplication tables check, which was due to be rolled out nationally next year, will be optional

6. Primary performance data will not be published

7. Schools will have to complete the early years foundation stage profile

8. Schools can run the reception baseline assessment if they want, but not mandatory

Read our news story on the changes here


League tables: Exam results not included, but attendance will be

1. Exam results will not be included in performance tables this year

2. The government will instead publish attendance information, student destinations and subjects taken at key stage 4 and 5


Remote education: Minimum expectations published

1. Primary schools to provide at least 3 hours of work a day for isolating pupils

2. Secondary schools to provide at least four hours’ work, with “more” for exam pupils

3. Requirement of “ideally daily” contact with pupils dropped

4. Instead schools should have systems for checking “at least weekly” whether pupils are engaging with work

5. Where engagement is a concern, parents should be “informed immediately”

6. A requirement for schools to publish information online about their remote education offer will be brought forward to the spring term

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