Schools need to know 2021 exam plans before summer, says Ofqual chief

Schools need to know what’s happening with next year’s exams “before the summer break ideally”, the head of the qualifications regulator has acknowledged.

Sally Collier, the chief regulator of Ofqual, told the Parliamentary education committee this morning that a consultation process on plans for next year will start “in the coming weeks”.

“Schools and teachers, they need to know very quickly, and exam boards, before the summer break ideally, as to what’s going to happen in September,” she said.

Asked whether the consultation would be longer than the one on this year’s plans, Collier said: “We do need to get on with this. I can’t promise that there will be a very long consultation, but we will give the maximum amount of time possible.”

It comes amid growing concerns about anxiety among current year 10 and year 12 pupils, who are due to sit GCSE and A-level exams next summer.

Gavin Williamson told the Commons yesterday that exams would go ahead in 2021, but it is not yet known what adjustments will be needed to the system to make it work for pupils, many of whom will have had their education disrupted.

Secondary schools have been asked to begin some face-to-face support of year 10 and 12 pupils from next Monday, but ministers have said only 25 per cent of pupils may attend at any one time, to preserve social distancing rules.

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  1. This will be the last thing on the governments agenda, they are more interested in opening zoo’s and pubs than my child’s education.

    I can’t see how the exams can be done next year and they must look at the same provision given to this years exams. The children have already lost too much of their education so far this year and it will be impossible to pull this back.

    • Khadija Ali

      I am sick and tired of teachers and the government putting other things before my children’s education. I have a daughter who is in year 10. and she is stressed out enough as it is about this pandemic and now shes freaking out about gcses. I am really upset and I feel like it is unfair and 2021 gcses for this years year 10s should not go on. There are many parents that believe this. It is too stressful and is very unfair

  2. Prakash

    Yes I agree with that statement
    If you think about it, the year 11s would have finished studiying for their exam and they would’ve been ready to write it but because of COVID 19 situations, they were cancelled. But on the other hand, year 10’s still have to do exams while missing a good 4 months of education so far and we still don’t know when my child’s school will open. Please can you think about this matter as it is our child’s future matter.
    Thank you

  3. Prakash

    Yes I agree with that statement because if you think about it, the current year 11s would’ve finished studying for their exams and they would have written the exam if there wasn’t any covid 19 situations. My question is how can year 11s get their predicted grades while years 10s and 12s miss a good 4 months of education so far and they still have to sit the exam?
    Isn’t it fair on those children?
    A lot of children in those years are very very anxious as to what is going to happen to them.
    Please give this a thought
    Thank you

  4. Sarah

    The same method of grading for GCSE this year must also be extended to next year. The current year 10 students will have lost so much syllabus learning time it’s impossible for them to sit the exams.

  5. I find the whole situation concerning Schools devastating and feel such empathy for all the youngsters who have had their education so severely disrupted. My daughter is due to sit her A levels next year and like all her peers deserves to know exactly what is going to happen, sooner rather than later. The anxiety the uncertainty is causing is worrying.

  6. Samirah Begum

    Please. I’m begging you please. This is stressing my daughter out so much. Her friends are stressed out. Shes stressed out. These children are going through something and it’s not a laughing matter. And It shouldn’t be ignored. It is very unfair and this situation needs to be addressed. Is GCSE happening or not? I think that gcses shouldn’t happen at all or at least extend the gcse time. To the summer term. Us parents need an answer. This year unfortunately is so different and very very stressful as we are all going through this pandemic. Please give us an answer

  7. Saba Hussain

    As an A-Level student that’s due to take my exams in 2021, I’m incredibly stressed and not mentally prepared for any exams or learning? It’s extremely unfair that our exams will still go ahead – as opposed to a changed testing method like coursework – because we’ve missed whole units and sectors of the curriculum.
    The government and education board really aren’t considering the mental and emotional impact this is having on us – we are being given masses of work and it appears that there’s no end goal. Although schools claim to do ‘everything in their power to ensure a smooth transition to Year 13’, the idea of proceeding as normal seems impossible to me.
    Many of my peers have lost their motivation and will to work due to the pandemic and lack of information provided about our position in schools.
    We need a definite answer and a clear plan of what’s going to happen in the Summer of 2021.

    • Isabella

      As a year 10 student, i don’t agree with postponing the exams. This only causes more stress and anxiety added on to the process of exams itself. We should be graded the same way this years GCSE have with coursework and predicted grades. We have missed over a third of a year of learning content and so is extremely unfair to be expected to complete exams on it.

  8. I completely agree. I feel the current y10s and y12s are being treated terribly. If they have to sit exams they should have grades submitted by teachers which ensures they shouldn’t get lower than teacher assessed grades but if perform well in exams they can improve their grades. However can’t see how they can sit exams fairly. Also massive inequality comparing private school vs state school provision And support over crisis. Also think y12 s should be given priority in 2021 university applications over current y13s deferring in terms of grades access to university as not fair playing ground and y12s won’t be able to compete with Current y13s grades due to disruption.

  9. Rachel Wilkes

    My daughter will receive 2 hours direct teaching per A level subject over the next few weeks. That’s 6 hours contact time in school total. Schools need to be honest about how much of the various syllabuses of each subject has Been relying on remote learning. Students have missed the direct interactions to exchange opinions in open class and lost the opportunity to hone their exam techniques. What are the options for 2021 exams? Eg. Write the exams in July 2021, test less of the syllabus, give wider range of questions, perhaps recognising that topics learnt remotely will not have such solid understanding? Whatever is decided, clarity is needed now to give our kids the support and to set the expectations for their studies in the next academic year.

  10. Aaman Khan

    I personally don’t think gcses are necessarily the best option especially for a time like this. Year 11s were lucky to skip it and get there predicted grades. I believe predicted grades are way better than actually sitting them as more stress is involved in sitting exams in a silent hall. Its a stressful process and I think gcses should be scrapped as a whole. Loads of people do worse in there gcse as its much more pressure involves.
    I really do hope gcse gets cancelled though, I don’t think it’s right anymore!

  11. Aleena

    As a year 10 student this is incredibly deteriorating my mental health. The teachers have no clue what’s going to happen and it’s making everything so unstable that no decisions have been made. In particular we are all struggling with lessons like science where face to face teaching is much more beneficial. The fact that we have been left with no support is incredibly stressful. We need closure and we need to know what will happen. Right k ow it feels like we are all failing. I go to school twice a week now but next week is the last week. We deserve to know what will happen. People that are responsible for the decision making need to be putting more time into this and discussing what will be best for the students. This isn’t something that you can all just brush over. Someone needs to be taking control. It’s to do with our futures

  12. I also agree that Year 10 should not sit their GCSEs next year and should be graded on coursework and teacher assessment. Even if the exams take place later in the year this will not give the students enough time to catch up on what they have missed and will also have an impact on their mental health, anxiety etc. This time would have previously been spent on going over what they had already learnt and also how to prepare for GCSEs etc, which there will not be time for now!

  13. Isabella

    As a year 10 student, i don’t agree with postponing the exams. This only causes more stress and anxiety added on to the process of exams itself. We should be graded the same way this years GCSE have with coursework and predicted grades. We have missed over a third of a year of learning content and so is extremely unfair to be expected to complete exams on it.

  14. Gemlou

    I don’t believe anything will be gained by moving exams back by a month. Our year 10 students have lost 5 months of face to face learning. Those that have kept up with online occasional classes and tasks have not been invited back to school due to being viewed as coping and are not due back until September, it is not clear at this stage what September will look like. My son is incredibly stressed by concern as works hard and wants to do well, the effect on those mental health of a delay would be horrendous when their mental health has already been massively effected this year. Moving exams is not the answer moving to a fair system to grade exams at the same time that is expected every year (yr 11 children legally have always finished by June 30) instead we need to look at grading either the same as this year or a percentage of the grade as predicated and part from physical exams. Clarification is needed and needed fast. Many parents also plan a celebratory holiday in year 11 – the first year that parents who have not taken their children out of school during term time can access a cheaper holiday earlier in the season – due to the pandemic this year many cancelled holidays have already been transferred to next year which will result financial impact and lost much needed breaks for families for two years running

  15. HI

    Both of my children are currently in Year 10 and Year 12. So double the stress in our household. How can the government possibly expect children to sit their exams in the Summer Term 2021 and bearing in mind they have missed the whole curriculum/term (Summer 200) . Online teaching has only been two hours a day. Children are getting over the Covid 19 anxiety and are now will be stressed about GCSE and A’levels, Does the government not think about wellbeing and mental health of children. Exams should not take place next year and results should be based on assessment and predicted grades. The sooner we know the more prepared parents and children can be. There even may be a second phase with Covid 19, and then what?

  16. Rebecca

    It would be unfair for year 10’s to sit traditional GCSE’s in 2021. So much valuable time has been lost. This year was graded on teachers predictions even though they had already covered the whole syllabus. Our children have missed too much school time. It should be based on course work and teachers grades. Also to note, the contingency date has been on the exam boards websites for a long while, stating june 29th. It would also no be very unfair to families to go beyond this planned date.

  17. Ellie

    As a year 10 pupil, I personally believe that the government action towards next academic year has been slow and very unorganised, causing more stress and anxiety. I do not agree with exams taking place in July, a few weeks won’t make up for months and months of lost learning. It will add to the stress, and give pupils a shorter summer which is seemingly unfair, Covid hasn’t been a holiday for us. In my opinion, if exams do go ahead, they should be either been shortened, or more effectively, open book. Shortening exams isn’t fair because students across the country learn certain content at different times. If exams are not open book, then they should be assessed through mocks/predictions/assessments, similar to the 2020 exams.

  18. Annie McCallum

    With local lockdowns now looking like a strong possibility (Leicester the first to consider one) how can the exams go ahead? It will be grossly unfair if areas go back into lockdown and schools closed on a regional basis. Add to this the number of students who will be encouraged to stay away from school during our usual flu season (December to March) because they have cold and flu symptoms that may or may not be Covid 19. A decision needs to be made now!

  19. Susan Wills

    Well-done to the Year 10 and Year 12 students coming on here and having their say! Students in these year groups are being treated dreadfully. Even the most committed and conscientious of them cannot be expected to virtually teach themselves their GCSEs and A levels – even with supportive and caring teachers adding online content and activities. But schools have other pupils, and teachers have their own issues to deal with. Difficult and stressful for all concerned. Major changes have to be made to next year’s assessments to avoid disadvantaging these year groups. This must not be left to the last minute.

  20. Joanne

    We should not be looking at delaying exams in 2021. They have missed 6 months of school and attemping to delay until july is ridicuous. One month later is not good enough especially when they have missed 5 to 6 months tutoring from the schools. This is totally unacceptable. I have a son in year 10 now and will be doing his GCSEs next year. He has not been in school since March 2020 and the school has only just opened for 25% of students. How is this fair on all students. You should be considering shortening the curriculum, doing assessments throughout the year or open book exams. Different schools have set different tasks and I dont think this has been done to a high standard. Also setting task is not teaching the kids. Who do they ask when they dont understand…. a lot of kids might have done some work but it’s not the same as if they were at school. I am a parent who tells their child they have to do so many hours a day however when you look at the work set this is not always clear..if they were at school then work set would have been known and understood and also teached. You cannot let next years children down and must set something fair to everyone ie open book, shorten the curriculum, assessments throughout the year….these are much better options than attempting to delay exams until july which will have no benefit to the children what so ever apart from stress them out longer when they are already having stresses on what they do next with college choices or apprenticeship etc….this is not fair to the kids.

  21. As another year 10 student I believe this is also unfair. The fact that the government believes that they can push back exams to July taking a few months out of our holiday through no fault of our own is unfair- as well as implying that an extra 2 months will somehow allow us to learn all the content we need to know even though we’ve been away from school for 6 months is outrageous. However, whether exams will be fully cancelled or not will be dependent on a second wave/local lockdowns. If there is no second wave, I believe exams should go ahead with a shortened curriculum

  22. Eliza

    Hi, I am a yr 12 student and I agree with all of the comments everyone has been saying about the fact that postponing exams by a month makes no difference. By the time I go back in September I have lost 5-6 months of valuable learning time that I could’ve spend with my teacher. It has been extremely hard coping with the huge amount of workload at home whole we only get a few hours a week of virtual learning time, where the majority of that is trying to take notes and teaching ourselves individually. In my opinion I believe that 2021 exams should not go ahead. It is more effective for students to either sit open books exams or even better be graded based off of assessments and coursework throughout the year. I know there are so many students out here that agree with me that are trying to balance out their mental and health and school work at the same time. Therefore to give everyone an equal opportunity it is vital for our opinions to be taken into considersjton

  23. Nikoleta

    I’m a student in Year 10. I believe the content of our GCSE should be shortened or completely cancelled. They should judge us on our work and ability just like the year 11’s. I was taking GCSE Statistics early this year as an extra qualification and i was able to get it graded based on my work like the year 11’s. Its unfair to pretend that we have not missed out of a bunch of essential learning time. No extended time will make up for 6 months worth of work. It’s irrational to think we can make it all up in two months. A large amount of my own time is spent trying to maintain my grade 8’s. The exam boards must realise our situation. Many pupils feel unheard and ignored because it is more convenient for the exams to carry on as normal. These are our pleas to have a fair GCSE’S. Also many regions will open schools faster than others it is unfair to those in highly vulnerable regions.

  24. Daisy Purser

    Hello, my name is Daisy and i am a year 10 student. I’ve been reading through all the other comments and i have realised how having 1-2 extra months at school, which is going into our holiday, is going to help us. 1 month of work is not going to make up for the 6 months missed. If i have to sit my exams next year, the same as the students did 2 years ago, i’m going to be extremely annoyed, stressed and overwhelmed. It is too much for a 15/16 year old has to complete. We all want a decision and answer on what is going to happen and sitting around doing nothing or trying to add 1 more month on to our school year is NOT going to help us at all.

  25. Sarah

    My daughter is due to sit GCSE’s in 2021 and is so stressed out having only had 1 day in school since lockdown. She has regular melt downs as she feels she has not learnt anywhere near the amount required to gain her predicted grades of level 7 and 8s. As a very conscientious student she feels that she’ll need to work constantly over the summer holidays and try to teach herself parts of the curriculum that haven’t been covered to date, I am particularly worried about her mental health and the stress she has put herself under. I sincerely hope that the exam boards will either reduce the content and/or assess the students by their course work and previous exams.

  26. Hollie

    I am a year 11 student, however my younger brother is due to sit his exams in 2021. Year 10s cannot be expected to sit their GCSEs as normal in 2021. The syllabus must be reduced as there is no chance any year 10 can achieve their full potential having missed out on six months of education.

  27. Hi as a yr 10 I feel extremely stressed and overwhelmed with everything going I try to concentrate on work but have an incredibly hard time focusing due to background noises and pore quality internet throughout the whole of lockdown and missing school I’ve completed only a weeks worth of work and I’m constantly doubting myself and it’s affecting my mental health especially knowing how hard I worked in school hours because I know I’m not an A* student but I do try to reach up to that expectation especially having a family the expects me to work hard and get good grades so please can the grade boundaries get lowered quite a bit or can GCSES get cancelled and just get a grade based on our previous coursework

  28. Aamina Faris

    as a year 10 It’s important that exams still do go ahead for year 10s because i have no idea what subjects i am good at. when choosing a levels i need to know what subjects are best for me and i can’t do that without some sort of examination process that tells me how i rank in each subject. everyone is in the same boat here and seems unnecessary to cancel tests