Students make up half of respondents to ‘largest ever’ exams consultation

Gavin Williamson academy order High Court

Nearly 47,000 students have responded to the government’s call to have their say on replacing exams this summer – making up half of all responses in what is thought to be the Department for Education’s largest ever consultation.

It marks a huge increase from the student voice in last year’s consultation to replace exams, when just under one in six responses were from youngsters.

The Ofqual and DfE consultation, due to close later this evening, has received a staggering 94,737 responses as of 5pm, of which 46,918 are from students.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson told Schools Week the “overwhelming” response makes it the “department’s largest ever consultation”.

But Joe Woodcock, community manager at The Student Room said students were “very concerned” about suffering the “same fate” as those involved in last summer’s grading fiasco.

Exams proposals
Ofqual’s interim chief regulator Simon Lebus

“Students will have seen their peers’ futures being put in jeopardy in circumstances outside of their control last year therefore it’s no surprise that given the chance to have their voices heard this year students have taken the opportunity in such a large number,” he added.

Ofqual and the DfE are proposing that external papers could help teachers award GCSE and A-level grades to their pupils this year.

Today, Ofqual’s interim chief regulator Simon Lebus said proposals for these papers are not “exams by the back door”.

The two-week consultation closes at 11.45pm tonight, with an announcement on the final plan expected in the week of February 22.

‘Schools will have the guidance and training’

Williamson told Schools Week the DfE will work “hand in glove” with the sector and Ofqual to take all the views into account.

He recognised that teacher assessments will place an “extra burden” on staff. But he wanted to make “absolutely clear” the government, Ofqual and exam boards “will ensure all schools and colleges have the guidance and training they need to make these crucial decisions”.

“Ultimately this is about ensuring all pupils can move on to their next step, whether that’s education or into the world of work, and families and young people across the country can feel confident that that’s exactly what our proposals will enable them to do,” Williamson added.

Ofqual said it had drawn in “extra resource” to deal with the deluge, with a team reading “all the responses” as they are submitted. However the regulator refused to provide details of how many people are working on it.

Of 12,600 responses to last year’s consultation on replacing exams, 1,939 were from students.



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  1. Absolutely ridiculous to cancel original exams then replace with other exams…. either cancel them or don’t but don’t mess them about. My daughter and others need to know for sure what they are going to be doing. They all have no idea what these papers will be like and the teachers will be made responsible for the next mess that goes wrong. Do what you did last year as it would be unfair; Year 11 and Year 13 have been more affected this year than last year’s missing more education yet expected to sit extra exams nobody knows the format of yet!

  2. Ofqual’s interim chief regulator Simon Lebus said proposals for these papers are not “exams by the back door”.

    I say

    If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

  3. But will they listen, as I am yet to come across a teacher or student that thinks the proposals are anything but burdensome, costly, confusing and another example of a lack to trust in the teaching profession. One of the proposals is that Ofqual provide training to teachers on how to assess students!

  4. Natalie

    Students are confused with what their options so will be.A huge amount of the content has been missed and this will also have a knock on effectvfor A levels next year.Motivation and revision skills have been massively reduced

  5. Lisa Chung

    My Husband, daughter and I definitely agree that formal assessments/tests should be conducted in May/June before the final grades are decided. We feel students should be given the chance to prove themselves rather than it being the teachers full responsibility to assess just on previous attainment.

  6. Janet Downs

    Let’s hope the DfE doesn’t resort to a ‘text analytics’ approach’ which was used when it analysed the ‘Schools that Work for Everyone’ consultation (closed Dec 2016). The department justified this approach because of ‘the number and unstructured nature of the responses’.
    Given that the number of responses to the exam consultation is larger, there could be a temptation to use the same short cut. This is unlikely to result in the clear consensus about the appropriate course to take.

  7. belinda robinson

    As an educationalist, I beg to differ on your comment about exams. The public exams were set up to ensure that publicly set exam papers were marked by an objective source completely independent of any school. If the government sets up external papers to be sat by students and marked by their teachers, it serves no purpose other than give loads of department cronies lots of jobs and money from the public purse. If pupils are not sitting and and marked by external sources from their school, then teacher assessment is by far the most fair and professional approach.

  8. Sarah Owen

    The level of teaching is too varied and the stress from Covid and the situation has impacted them all to have exams , Some are so stressed they cannot perform at their best . There should not be exams in the summer term it is wholly unfair when they have been told exams cancelled . Mini topic understanding assessments sure to build up a grade picture would be fairer and lighten the workload .