Plan to move 2021 exams to June 'little more than tinkering at the edges' - heads' leader

A proposal to delay the start of exams until June next year amounts to “little more than tinkering at the edges of next year’s exams”, a heads’ leader has said.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said the proposal to start exams on June 7 “adds up to a few weeks more learning time to compensate for a shutdown which has lasted for four months”.

We fear the very minor changes in this consultation fail to recognise the enormous pressure on schools and their pupils to cover the large amount of content in these courses

The exams regulator Ofqual has today set out draft plans for exams in 2021, including proposals to delay the start of exams until after the May half term break, and various changes to exam content.

The organisation promised a consultation on plans for 2021 before the summer break, so that current year 10s and year 12s have clarity as soon as possible about how the system will work for them next year.

Ofqual’s consultation asks whether the GCSE and A-level exam timetables should start after half term in 2021, even if this means delaying results days next year.

“We have asked the exam boards to consider how the 2021 exam timetable could be changed to allow more time for teaching – in particular, whether GCSE exams could start after half term, on June 7 2021,” the regulator said.

“We are also seeking views on whether such a change would be appropriate for the AS/A level exam timetable, and the impact of any delay in issuing results.”

But Barton said: “We understand that it is difficult to scale back exams in a way that is fair to all pupils, but we fear the very minor changes in this consultation fail to recognise the enormous pressure on schools and their pupils to cover the large amount of content in these courses.”

Ofqual has also asked respondents to say what they think of the idea of delaying exams if results days in August can be maintained.

Other questions include whether schools should have a choice of topics on which their students will answer questions in GCSE history and GCSE ancient history exams, and whether pupils should not be required to undertake fieldwork for GCSE geography.

Changes to performances in dance and drama are proposed, along with a relaxation of the rules in design and technology to allow students to watch teachers demonstrate the use of machinery, rather than to use the machinery themselves.

However, the regulator has proposed that generally exams will not include more optional questions than usual, and that the number of exams taken for each subject should be the same as usual.

Sally Collier, the chief regulator of Ofqual, said: “We have considered a wide range of options before coming forward with a set of proposals for next year’s GCSE, AS and A level exams which will help reduce the pressure on students and teachers, while allowing them to progress with valid qualifications which higher educational institutions and employers can trust.

“I would encourage all those with an interest in our consultation to give us their views.”

The consultation closes on July 16, and final decisions will be announced in August.