Ofqual publishes 2021 summer exams consultation

The exams regulator Ofqual has published its consultation on alternative arrangements for the awarding of GCSEs and A-levels this summer.

It follows a decision last week to cancel exams due to take place in 2021 amid partial school closures.

The consultation document proposes that students’ grades in each subject “will be based on their teachers’ assessment of the standard at which the student is performing”.

Final assessments will be made “towards the end of the academic year, at about the time students would have taken their exams”.

Views sought on plan for papers to help teachers with assessment

Ofqual has also said that to help teachers make “objective decisions”, it is proposing that exam boards provide “guidance and training”, and make available sets of papers for teachers to use with with students “as part of their assessment”.

The consultation is seeking views on “whether such papers should be provided and, if so, what form they should take”.

One question being considered is whether the papers could use materials from past papers. The consultation also asks when the papers should be made available and whether their use should be mandated.

The use of such papers “would support consistency within and between schools and colleges”, Ofqual said.

“The teacher, through the marking of the papers, could consider the evidence of the student’s work and use that to inform their assessment of the grade deserved. The exam boards could also sample teachers’ marking as part of the external quality assurance arrangements and to seek to ensure this was comparable across different types of school and college, wherever students are studying. The use of exam board papers could also help with appeals.”

Where non-exam assessments are part of a qualification’s existing specification, Ofqual is proposing that teachers will continue to assess any NEA a student has undertaken.

Ofqual is also proposing that teachers should draw on a “range of broader evidence of a student’s work in making their final assessment”, and that all students should be able to appeal their grades.

Early-June grade submission and early July results proposed

Under the proposed plan, students would be assessed by their teachers in a period beginning in May into early June. Teachers would then submit grades to the exam boards by the middle of June.

External quality assurance by the exam boards would be “ongoing” throughout June and results would be issued to students once that process is complete – most likely in early July. Students could then appeal immediately following the issue of results, and appeals would first be considered by schools and colleges.

A separate consultation on proposals for vocational and technical qualifications has also been published.


What’s being proposed: in short

Students would continue with their education during this academic year

Students would be assessed by their teachers in a period beginning in May into early June

Teachers would submit grades to the exam boards by mid-June

External quality assurance by the exam boards would be ongoing throughout June

Results would be issued to students once the quality assurance process is complete, most likely in early July

Student appeals could be submitted immediately following the issue of results and would first be considered by schools and colleges

Your thoughts

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  1. muneebah

    I think externally set papers should be optional for the students who want to take them, as it shows fairness and also gives people who arent happy with their predicted grades a chance to boost them up. It also takes the stress of teachers and they can award the grades more fairly with the help of externally set papers- Teachers should also decide which papers students sit from the topics we have covered most

  2. Sharon Denny

    I believe we forget to give recognition to our teachers in primary and secondary schools and the dedication they provide to our children and their learning needs both social and academic. Teachers know and understand our childrens needs and capabilities, sometimes better than we do, due to the time childten spend in school. Why not give them the recognition they deserve . We do not need outside assistance, our teachers know our children and their capabilities and understanding of subjects. For once let us put our trust in professional’s who really know what they are doing within a learning environment. Let’s have a teachers forum from state schools who advise the government how to assess childrens ability. This will also support a child and young person’s mental health needs as they have clear guidance about their examinations and who and how they will be assessed when they have missed so much schooling.

  3. Lisa Olley

    My son left school last year (2019).
    He has a diagnosis of Dyslexia and Developmental Language Disorder.
    He struggles to retain/process information, comprehension tasks are very difficult, he’s like many other SEND children within schools. The exam system, being exam only is set to fail children like my son. It was a much better and fairer way of assessing his skills and knowledge last year.
    I would hope that this is something that is closely looked into for the future.

  4. Marianne Foster

    This is ridiculous. The young people were told that there will be no exams. This document seems to suggest that there will be exams (by another name), but essentially the same thing. Why not trust teachers and let them give the grades based on the pupil’s performance? They could work with other local schools and colleges and create their own moderation processes.

  5. Mrs Clare Bradley

    Schools in Northern Ireland close for summer holidays on June 30th.
    Therefore issuing exam results and kickstarting appeals in early July would not be possible.
    Mid to late August has always been the time for this process.
    Please bear this in mind.
    Clare Bradley
    Holy Cross College

  6. Stuart McWilliams

    From my understanding the process is to replace exams (assessments that take place under supervision within an allotted time) with mini tests which will be questions set by exam boards to be completed under supervision within a window of time?!?!?!?
    The consultation refers to pupil familiarity with exam style questions. Exactly when were the pupils expected to be given time for this ‘familiarity? End of year exams in summer 2020 were cancelled owing to school closure. Mock exams were cancelled owing to school closure. Teachers have spent class time trying desperately to plug gaps and cover curriculum content. Schools have had pupils in and out since September as the virus burst various bubbles.
    There seems to be a desperate attempt not to trust teachers judgements…..again.

  7. Kate hoinville

    I believe due to the lack of teaching and time in school the grades should be based on work previously carried out and previous assessments. Some children have not missed school and some have hardly been in due to isolating which has been out of everyones control and it is unfair on children who have missed lessons.
    Let the teachers assess the students and grade them taking into account the previous Year’s work.

  8. Richard Jolly

    As a parent of 2 children in their GCSE and A level years, this proposal frustrates me for many reasons. Firstly, it has been announced that exams are cancelled this year out of fairness; why then are we suddenly being consulted with on whether to have them?….the unfairness of the pandemic impact has not changed. Secondly, teachers are already overworked and have no time to mark exams (for free!). Even if they did, choosing the topics on which to assess makes levelling the playing field across schools impossible. Exams are only effective if it’s the same for all. Lastly, and sadly, it smacks of distrust in teachers ability to do their job. Exam boards are needed when exams take place; if they are cancelled, they are not needed, so why is this proposal trying (very hard!) to get them back involved? It is simple: trust the teachers to do their job, and tell the exam boards to prepare for next year. This is the kind of certainty my children (and me!) need right now.

  9. Shakila

    I think it should be teacher assessed as teachers know the students and their capabilities. Teachers are more than qualified and we need to give them more autonomy. GCSEs need to be reformed, they are not a good way of assessing children as they are memory based. Children have to memorise scything it doesn’t show their skills. Also it’s not fair on those children who aren’t good at retaining information and those who have disabilities such as dyslexia. Some children put a lot of effort and try very hard but can’t restrain information, how is that fair?

  10. Keith Moore

    Exams are supposed to be cancelled because of the unfairness created by the pandemic. It is plain for all but Ofqual to see that the Covid situation will also have an impact on the proposed mini exams. Is picking and choosing from a bank of questions, possibly augmented by teachers making up their own semi-formal assessments, going to create a level playing field, I doubt it. Teachers are asked to ensure a level of breadth in the choice of assessments. This cannot possibly be standardised.
    The supervision of these tests could also become a flexible feast with some conducted on school premises and others possibly taken at home in a much less controlled environment.
    It’s quite bizarre that teachers are permitted to make allowances for illness and bereavement but not consider huge disparities in face-to-face tuition which is surely the biggest element dictating performance levels in different schools.
    With end-of-year exams having been cancelled for A-level students in Year 12 and Mocks now cancelled in Year 13, how are students meant to have developed familiarity in dealing with past questions under examination conditions?
    At A-level, considerable pressure is put on teachers to deliver grades compatible with calculations made from average GCSE scores. Clearly, there is a yardstick here for a minimum target grade that would normally be aspired to. Why is this performance indicator being ignored?
    Only teachers can judge the real impact of the pandemic in their institutions. They should have enough pieces of work to formulate a reasonably objective opinion of a candidate’s worth and should be trusted to do so. If the work is representative of a student’s ability, the time of its production within a student’s programme of study is largely irrelevant.
    Teachers should also be allowed to make some allowance for the disruption their students have suffered. It is indefensible to ignore this. It seems to me that ‘What might have been achieved’ – something which this document is keen to dismiss – is a wholly valid consideration under the circumstances. Such a judgement would require absolute faith in teachers and will not be one made possible by slavish adherence to external moderation.
    The stress imparted by this unnecessarily complex set of parameters will drive hard-pressed teachers further into work overload.

  11. Andrea Unsted

    What about those Home Educated children? How will they be assessed?

    My son has just commenced HE – he only has Mock exam results from September. Will these be counted?