Exams: Some schools ‘unnecessarily’ doing too many ‘plan B’ tests

'Small number' of schools have 'created a large number of new and additional mock exams and assessments'

'Small number' of schools have 'created a large number of new and additional mock exams and assessments'

The number of penalties handed out to students caught cheating has risen for a second year

Some schools are “unnecessarily” getting students to take too many tests as part of “plan B” exams preparation, the government has admitted.

The Department for Education and Ofqual have issued draft guidance on how schools should collect teacher assessed grades (TAGs) evidence as part of “long-term resilience arrangements” for exams from 2024 onwards.

While cancellation of GCSE and A-level exams nationwide is “unlikely”, they said it “remains good public policy to have contingency arrangements”.

The government faced fierce criticism for not having an “off-the-shelf plan B” when exams were cancelled for a second time in early 2021 due to the pandemic. 

Schools are currently collecting students’ performance evidence for the third year in a row, just in case the exams for some reason cannot be sat.

But in new draft guidance, Ofqual and DfE said in the last three years “we have seen some examples of schools introducing additional assessments for the purpose of gathering evidence of student performance, which we consider to be unnecessary and counter to supporting students as they prepare for their exams”.

“We are keen that students benefit from the opportunities they are given to prepare for their exams, and certainly are not adversely affected by taking too many assessments.”

They added a “small number” of schools and colleges “created a large number of new and additional mock exams and assessments” this year.

The new guidance states that one full set of mock exams sat in exam conditions is “likely to provide sufficient evidence” for TAGs. There is “no need” to complete multiple mock sets for evidence, they said.

This year they stopped short of repeating advice on the frequency of testing after previously saying a “sensible approach” would be to test once a term.

Ofqual and DfE fear over-assessment could “lead to reduced teaching and study time and additional exam-related anxiety”.

Similar guidance to 2023

The rest of the proposals are similar to the guidance in place for this summer.

For example, teachers should plan so that the gathered evidence assessed pupils “on a wide range of content” which is similar to their summer exams.

Students should be told, where possible, before taking any test whether it would form part of the evidence base for TAGs.

Half of schools consulted last year on the 2023 guidance said the plans would increase workload.

Ofqual has also since heard from students that while some found the plan B arrangements “beneficial” to prepare for exams, others felt “greater anxiety” mock exams could be used for final grades.

The exams regulator is also asking for views on updating its conditions so the plan B proposals can be put in place.

The overall consultation runs until August 2.

Schools “may wish” to use their knowledge and experience of implementing the 2023 guidance to inform their responses, DfE and Ofqual added.

More from this theme


‘Change on an unprecedented scale’: Ofqual responds to ABS plans

Qualifications reform risks more exams, 'unregulated' A-levels and students unprepared for higher study, says exams regulator

Freddie Whittaker

Hacking homework for exam breach suspect

A 16-year-old boy has been cautioned in connection with an exam board cyber attack

Samantha Booth

Deprived schools more likely to see progress 8 scores fall

Analysis comes as Covid impact and potential Labour changes may spell end to measure in its current form

Freddie Whittaker

Progress 8 pause: Heads call for wider review

But some heads have warned the sector could creep back to GCSE pass grades being the accountability 'king'

Samantha Booth

No school progress measure for next two years

The Department for Education had explored alternative options, but concluded there is 'no replacement' for progress 8 measure

Samantha Booth

Unions: ‘Clunky’ advanced British standard risks ‘blunt choice’ for pupils

Ministers accused of 'putting the cart before the horse' with 16-19 reform plans

Freddie Whittaker

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One comment

  1. Locked down created so much relaxation ,lackadaisical atitude for all,i support the schools giving students series of test .
    During the lockdown students were addicted to electronic gadgets to warn them off and prepare them for reality of life,the test and assessment would help student to retune to normal way of life which exist before Covid and eradicate anxiety ,create resilience.
    China and other Asian countries have built such great resilience that why they are moving forward rapidly.