More 'optionality' in next year's exams still a possibility, says Ofqual chief

The exams regulator’s interim boss has suggested “greater optionality” in next year’s exams is still a possibility – signalling that further tinkering to assessments is still on the table.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 this morning, interim chief regulator Dame Glenys Stacey said further exam changes could include more multiple choice questions and exam boards providing advance materials before tests, such as formula sheets for science subjects.

The comments reveal that Ofqual is still looking to make further amendments to exams, despite yesterday’s announcement there would be no further changes to exam content which Stacey said gave teachers and students “some welcome certainty in these uncertain times”.

Stacey said today there was “certainty” from the government that the “whole curriculum is to be covered”. But she added: “Our challenge is to find ways we can make examinations as fair as possible for students without narrowing the curriculum.”

She said Ofqual wants to “encourage students to study the whole of the syllabus because they could miss out on learning otherwise and that could come back to bit them later as they progress their studies”.

But she said there are “ways” Ofqual can make exams as “approachable as possible”, adding that “greater optionality is one of the things we can look at, but we don’t want to narrow the curriculum”.

She added that more multiple choice questions “might be the answer for some subjects”, or exam boards providing advance materials before tests.

“There’s no one answer and indeed the right approach is likely to differ between subjects,” Stacey added.

When asked about when a decision will be made, she said Ofqual will be providing “comprehensive advice” to the government next month so “it is not much longer to wait”.

When challenged about whether invigilated mocks are under consideration as part of a “plan B” should pupils miss exams because of the pandemic, Stacey would only say there is “work in hand to look at contingency plans”.

“Certainly contingency papers sitting an exam paper ahead of the ordinary exam period is one option,” she added.

The government confirmed yesterday that most exams would be delayed by three weeks.