Changes to The 2021 Exams – Ofqual Consultation

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Updated 16th January

On the 15th of January Ofqual commenced their consultation on proposals designed to support students taking GCSEs, AS, and A Levels in 2021. As promised, we have delved into the paperwork which has been published so far on the gov.uk website and added a summary below along with some links which we believe may be helpful for you as our network of tutors.

The consultation has been put together in response to the letter to the chief regulator of Ofqual from the education secretary Gavin Williamson. The full letter may be read here With a response from Simon Lebus, the chief regulator which may also be read in full here.

How to respond

The consultation is open to responses from the students who were due to take their exams, their parents and carers, their teachers, school and college leaders and others who have an interest, including further and higher education providers, and employers.

We urge our tutors and their student and families to put their views forward as this will have a direct impact on everyone.

Ofqual Consultation & DfE Recommendations

The consultation has put the following recommendations forward and is now asking for your feedback:

  • Students would continue with their education during this academic year
  • Students would be assessed by their teachers in a period beginning in May into early June
  • Teachers would submit grades to the exam boards by mid June
  • External quality assurance by the exam boards will be ongoing throughout June
  • Results would be issued to students once the QA process is complete, most likely in early July
  • Student appeals could be submitted immediately following the issue of results and would first be considered by schools and colleges

Additional areas in the consultation:

  • Assessment of private candidates
  • Whether Ofqual should prohibit the taking of GCSE, AS and A level exams in England, the UK and elsewhere in the world
  • Quality assurance
  • The conditions under which students should be assessed
  • Equality impact

Letter from the Education Secretary

In addition to the consultation, we have summarised some of the main points made in the education secretary’s letter to Ofqual below:

“maximising the remaining time to allow students to be taught as long as possible”

This suggests to us that any kind of assessment will be ongoing until the end of the academic term that year 11 and 13 would usually end. Whether this is the May half term When exams would usually commence or moving to the end of the academic year is unclear.

“A breath of evidence should inform teachers judgments and provision training guidance will support teachers to reach their assessment of a students deserved grade.”

Unpacking this statement using later parts of the letter suggest that the education secretary would prefer to see a bank of questions provided by exam boards which are then marked by teachers using a formal mark scheme. Reference to externally set tasks and papers is repeated throughout the latter alongside concerns about ensuring that all students receive a fair grade and that bias is negated.

“It is important that there is a clear and accessible route for private candidates to be assessed and receive a grade, and so the consultation should seek views on their options to do so.”

We thoroughly welcome the recognition of private candidates within the letter at the commencement of the consultation rather than as an addendum. This is a positive step towards ensuring that our students I’ll support it no matter whether they are in school or private candidates.

“Any changes [ to grades ] should be based on human decisions, not by an automatic process or algorithm.”

The expectation would be that there will be a level of consultation on how grades will be moderated based upon assessment rather than that the application or the mathematical algorithm to assign grades following the issues raised with the process last summer.

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