Next year, students will sit exams, but we recognise they have faced disruption over the last two years and we’ve taken measures to make sure they aren’t disadvantaged. Here we answer your questions.
Why are you bringing exams back?
Exams are the best and fairest form of assessment.
We recently ran a consultation, with the exams regulator Ofqual, on what adaptations we should make to GCSE exams in 2022 in response to the pandemic. The consultation gathered more than 6,000 responses – with almost a quarter from students – and showed that more than 90 per cent of students and parents were in favour of giving advance information on the focus of exams next summer to support students with revision, and around 80 per cent or more agreed with offering choices of topics in some GCSE subjects.
What measures will be in place to make sure they are fair when different students have missed different amounts of time?
Students will benefit from a range of adaptations to GCSE exams in England – these adaptations will help them reach their potential following the disruption they’ve faced.
- A choice of topics or content on which students will be assessed in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography.
- Providing advance information on the focus of exams to support students’ revision in subjects where there is not a choice of topics.
- Giving students formulae sheets in GCSE maths and revised equation sheets in GCSE combined science and physics.
- Changing requirements for practical science work and practical art and design assessments to ensure fairness.
These changes will also apply to the November 2022 GCSE English language and mathematics re-sit exams. There will be advance information deployed for both subjects in July, and a formulae sheet will be available for mathematics.
While it is the Government’s firm intention for exams to go ahead next year it is right for contingency plans to be in place in the event they cannot. Ofqual and the department plan for Teacher Assessed Grades to be used and are today launching a consultation on how this might work in 2022, building on the 2021 process.
What about grading – are you making any changes to that?
For the past two years, summer exams haven’t been able to take place and, instead, students have been awarded grades by their teachers. Due to the difference in assessment approach, we have seen higher outcomes. As we return to exams, we want to get back to the pre-pandemic standard, but in the interests of fairness, Ofqual (who take the decisions on grading) won’t do so in one jump.
Instead, 2022 will be a transition year to reflect that we are in a pandemic recovery period and students’ education has been disrupted. In 2022 the aim, therefore, will be to move grading to a point close to midway between 2021 and 2019.
Results are likely to be higher than in 2019, but not as high as in 2020. Ofqual aims to return to results that are in line with pre-pandemic years in 2023.
What is being done for vocational and technical qualifications in 2022?
It is the Government’s firm intention that exams and assessments for VTQs and other general qualifications, including T Levels and Functional Skills qualifications, should go ahead in 2021/22 academic year.
Adaptations for Vocational and Technical Qualifications have already been confirmed, following consultation. Colleges and schools are now being made aware of these changes by their awarding organisations.
We have also published our contingency plans for VTQs, which seek to achieve parity and consistency where relevant with the arrangements proposed for GCSEs and AS/A levels.