GCSE students set to be given exam aids for one more year

It follows Nick Gibb, ex-schools minister, saying there was 'an expectation' the support would not be offered this year

It follows Nick Gibb, ex-schools minister, saying there was 'an expectation' the support would not be offered this year

Students taking GCSE maths, physics and combined science are set to be given exam aids for one final year due to the pandemic disruption – but leaders say the plans have come too late.

This comes despite former schools minister Nick Gibb previously saying there was an “expectation” that formula and equation sheets would not be offered for 2024 tests.

However, a two-week consultation published today proposes that this support continue for exams next summer, “in view of the disruption this cohort of students may have experienced”. 

Ofqual said there was “strong support” for the aids in 2022 and 2023 and that they “had a positive impact on student confidence when preparing for their exams”. 

The regulator’s review of those assessments “indicates that there is no evidence that the functioning of the assessment was compromised”. 

But DfE said in 2025 exams will return entirely back to normal. 

This reflects “that those pupils will have had the opportunity to benefit from more time in secondary school with support from teachers and interventions such as the National Tutoring Programme, compared to students from the previous two cohorts”. 

Geoff Barton, general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders, said they believe students should be given exam aids “on a permanent basis”.

“This reflects our view that exams should not be memory tests but a way of seeing how well students apply their knowledge.”

Sarah Hannafin, head of policy at NAHT school leaders’ union, welcomed the plans, but added “it is disappointing that this decision has been made so late on, almost a full term into teaching”.

She added “many year 11 students will have their mock exams in December and schools need to know whether to allow the use of formulae and equation sheets in the mocks or not”.

Grading back to normal

Dr Jo Saxton, Ofqual chief regulator, previously confirmed there would be no grading protection in 2024.

This summer’s exams marked the end of a two-year plan to remove pandemic inflation. 

Returning back to pre-pandemic standards means “people know what that benchmark is and what students need to know, understand and do to achieve a certain grade,” Saxton said.

Asked whether it was fair to have no protections next year, she said while the pandemic has “cast a long shadow” it is “further and further in the past”.

Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said today: “Young people taking GCSEs next year will be the last who experienced two years of national closures during secondary school and it’s right that we recognise that with some additional support.

“GCSEs are young people’s passport to their next stage of education and we must ensure students have the opportunity to show what they know and can do, and ultimately meet their potential.”

The consultation will run until 11.45pm on November 30.

Meanwhile, more detailed A-level results data published today shows the attainment gap between poorer pupils and their more-advantaged peers this year was 4.88.

This is smaller than the gap of 5.08 seen last year, but the same as the gap in pre-pandemic 2019.

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