A significant number of students will sit their final 2021 examinations. The outcome of which undoubtedly will be their passport, for many of their future life chances and successes. In order for this to be done fairly, it is imperative that the amount of content they are tested on is reduced.
As an educator myself, I understand the huge benefits of face to face teaching and the positive impact this has on a child’s educational success. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing unprecedented situation, classroom based learning has not been possible. A significant amount of teaching and learning time has been lost (ongoing). This cannot effectively be compensated for by provided remote learning activities.By reducing the content, students will have the opportunity to sit their exams equitably.
Thursday 30th July 2020
All students, including current Year 10s and 12s, will have experienced disruption to their education this year. Ofqual is consulting on measures to mitigate this through changes to next year’s exams.
We recognise that Year 10 and 12 students due to take exams next year, and their parents, carers and teachers, are concerned about the disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The government is determined to do everything possible to ensure that no student is prevented from fulfilling their potential due to the pandemic.
We are planning on the basis that exams will go ahead in 2021 and have been working closely with Ofqual, the exam boards and groups representing teachers, schools, colleges and students to consider our approach to exams and other assessments next year. On 2 July, Ofqual published consultation proposals on a range of possible measures, with the overriding aim of ensuring that exams and assessments are as fair as possible. In particular, the consultation proposes a range of changes to exams and assessments next year to free up additional time for teaching, in light of the disruption experienced by teachers and students this year. This includes seeking views on a short delay to the exams timetable in 2021, and proposed adaptations in a number of subjects, for example, removing the requirement to record the spoken language assessment in GCSE English language, and allowing GCSE students to observe, rather than undertake, practical science work.
As with this year, the most important principle is that students due to sit exams and assessments in the next academic year should be enabled to progress successfully to the next stage of education or employment. Each of the elements of content that forms the foundation for GCSE, AS and A level qualifications is important, and therefore the government does not propose to change this content for 2021.
For GCSE history, ancient history and geography, the government has asked Ofqual to identify options for sampling less of the subject content for 2021 in a way which gives schools and colleges some choice over the content they teach, and helps teachers and students to cover that content in appropriate depth. This is because, unlike other subjects taken by large numbers of students, Ofqual was not able to identify any ways of freeing up teaching time without making changes to the way subject content is sampled. For GCSE history and ancient history, Ofqual is seeking views on proposals to introduce a choice of topics on which students would be required to answer questions in their exams, with one topic remaining mandatory. For GCSE geography, Ofqual is proposing that the content relating to fieldwork should not be assessed in 2021.
The government has confirmed that this approach should not be considered for GCSE English language, English literature, maths and the sciences, since the full content in these subjects is vital for progression to further study and students should have the opportunity, therefore, to cover the full syllabus. This approach should not be considered for AS/A levels either.
Ofqual’s consultation closes on 16 July. We recognise that students and teachers need to be reassured and informed about arrangements for exams and assessments next year, to help them to plan and prepare. Ofqual is aiming to announce its decisions by early August.
On 2 July, the government also published further guidance for schools and colleges that sets out what school and college leaders and their staff should consider in planning and delivering their curriculum next year, so that all students – particularly disadvantaged students – are given the support to make up for their lost time in education due to the pandemic. The government is clear that the school curriculum should remain broad and ambitious, and all students should continue to be taught a wide range of subjects, maintaining their choices for further study and employment.
Department for Education
This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/320772)