Our joint consultation with the Department for Education on awarding GCSE, AS and A level grades closes today (29 January) and we have already received over 90,000 responses. It is hugely important for those who will be affected by these arrangements to be able to shape the way ahead.
Several themes are emerging from the consultation already. What is clear is that there are no straightforward options for how exams are to be replaced.
I want to tackle one thing head on – the proposal to have externally-set papers or tasks to help teachers to assess their students objectively. Some have called these ‘mini exams’. This is not what we’ve proposed, but I thought it might help if I explained our thinking.
Teachers will need to take decisions about the grade they determine for their students based on a breadth of evidence. We believe that students should be given similar opportunities to show what they know and understand about a subject. This would also support teachers to assess their students consistently.
These externally-set papers could be provided by exam boards. One of the things we ask in our consultation is whether exam boards should also provide guidance and training to teachers. Teachers could use performance on a paper as just one source of evidence to determine a student’s grade. Other sources of evidence could include mock exam results, internal assessments or work already completed.
We ask in our consultation whether these papers are a good idea and, if so, what form they should take. Should they, for example, use materials from past exam papers? Should it be mandatory for teachers to use them and, if so, when should they be made available?
An externally-set paper, marked by teachers, could support teachers as they determine the grades their students should receive. We propose that teachers should weigh up different pieces of evidence to arrive at the standard at which a student is performing. Having something set externally provides a useful reference point, and helps to support consistency between different students in a school or college, and between schools and colleges in different parts of the country.
So how would these externally-set papers be different to exams? In any normal year, exams are kept under lock and key and sat at exactly the same time by students across the country. And of course they are marked by external examiners.
Exams like this are not happening this year because of the pandemic, and the government has proposed teacher assessment, using the externally-set papers as one source of evidence. And here is how it might work: teachers would consider how well a student performed in the paper alongside other sources of evidence, to inform their assessment of the grade a student should receive.
The exam boards could also sample teachers’ marking as part of the external quality assurance arrangements and look to see how the school or college is using different sources of evidence.
Our consultation also proposes that exam boards use questions in their papers that are similar in style and format to those in normal exam papers. This isn’t because we’re trying to squeeze in an exam via a different route. It is because most students would be familiar with the sorts of questions used, as students typically use past papers to help them prepare for their exams. It just means there could be questions in a form that students are used to.
We have also proposed that teachers should have some choice of the topics on which their students could answer questions. Teachers could choose from a set of short papers, or select questions or sections based on particular topics, so that they could take account of what has or hasn’t been fully taught due to the disruption. The exact approach would have to be tailored for each subject, with exam boards confirming the details.
I hope this explanation goes some way to allay concerns that some students have expressed to us – that these are exams by the back door. They are not. But an externally-set task would help teachers by providing them with an external reference point, giving them greater confidence in the grade they were awarding.
If you haven’t yet responded, you can do so until 23:45 tonight (Friday, 29 January).
Interim Chief Regulator, Ofqual
OxfordAQA announces the replacement of exams with Teacher Assessed Grades
Published on 28th January 2021
A message from Sadie Visick, Managing Director
I am writing to you to announce the cancellation of the May/June 2021 exams, and confirm that OxfordAQA students will receive Teacher Assessed Grades, in line with students in England
We have taken this difficult decision in order to end the uncertainty following the recent announcement of the cancellation of exams in England by the UK Government. As you know, OxfordAQA’s international GCSE and A-level exams are benchmarked to UK standards, and maintaining fairness and consistency in the grades provided to all students, in all countries around the world, is a priority for us.
Regrettably, it has become clear that it will not be possible for exams to be held everywhere in May/June 2021, because of the continued impact of the coronavirus.
Since the announcement in England, we have consulted widely with schools, parents and students about the May/June 2021 series, and we are grateful to everyone who responded to our surveys and questions. You told us very clearly that you want a swift decision to end this period of uncertainty, so you can start to put the right plans in place.
Having listened carefully to your views, and reviewed the options with our assessment experts, we believe this is the right decision to ensure a level playing field for both international students and students in England.
What schools told us
Everyone, including us, would have preferred a return to a normal exam series in the summer. However, You said that you have serious concerns about how the grades received by international students sitting exams would compare with the Teacher Assessed Grades received by students in England. You also said that we should focus on ensuring that international GCSE and A-level students are assessed in the same way as students in England.
Many schools have told us that having a consistent approach means that no student in any school or country will be disadvantaged, and that assessing all students in the same way is the only way to be confident grades are comparable and fair.
As one of our schools told us, “There needs to be one system and way of assessing that is applied for all students across the whole world. This is a global pandemic and whilst the situation has differed from country to country and the adaptation to teaching has also varied greatly, these students have all faced huge changes and disruptions, not only in their experience of school and learning, but also in their home environment, and the mental impact that has had on them needs to also be recognised and acknowledged.”
The support you can expect from us
We expect Ofqual to publish their consultation findings by the end of February 2021, and we’ll share more information as soon as we can. We know you will have many questions which we won’t be able to answer fully until the outcome of the consultation is known. So for now, we want to continue the dialogue with you, so we can start to put in place the framework for the support that you need, ready for when more details about the approach for Teacher Assessed Grades have been confirmed.
We will ensure that you are fully supported to assess your students accurately and fairly. We will provide clear and detailed guidance and a comprehensive programme of training and support.
We received positive feedback after last summer that our schools felt well-supported and appreciated the quality assurance processes we put in place, and we will build on this as we develop the approach for this year.
We will also engage with the parents of your students, so that they know that schools are following a rigorous and robust process, which will mean that students will receive the grades they deserve this summer.
Finally, because the outcome of the Ofqual consultation won’t be available before the end of February, we’ve extended our entries deadline to 21st March. In order to make sure your students receive a grade this year, you will need to submit your entries before this deadline. We will review our fees for the May/June 2021 series when more detail is known about the Teacher Assessed Grades process and the costs of delivering it.
I’d like to personally reassure you that we, like you, are driven by the desire to allow every student to show the best they can do. As always, our Fair Assessment approach continues to be at the heart of everything we do, and every decision we make.
Although the challenges of the pandemic continue, we are committed to supporting you and your students every step of the way in 2021, and we look forward to working closely with you to ensure all your students receive a fair grade.
In the meantime, it’s important that students focus on their studies and continue learning wherever possible. I hope you are keeping safe and well in these difficult times, and we will be in touch with you again with more information as soon as it is available.
Managing Director, OxfordAQA
Statement from Pearson Edexcel 6 Jan 2021
Statement from Cambridge International following the UK government announcement on June 2021 exams
05 Jan 2021
On 4 January 2021, the UK Prime Minister announced new national restrictions for England, including the closure of schools and cancellation of most exams for June 2021.
As an international organisation based in the UK, we want to update our global community of schools on our position on the 2021 exam series following this announcement. A number of schools have asked if there will be any change in our policy.
We work with schools in 160 countries and most of our schools are telling us they want to run exams in June 2021 and expect to be able to do so, in line with guidance from their national and regional authorities.
We continue to prepare for the March and June series to go ahead. We believe that schools in most countries outside the UK, will want to proceed with exams as planned. We will continue to monitor the situation for the March and June 2021 series very closely and keep our schools informed but we expect exams to continue as planned where it is permitted and safe. Our priority continues to be to keep students safe and to make sure they can progress with their education.
With regard to our schools in the UK, Cambridge International will be monitoring the decisions being taken on June exams and working closely with the UK Department for Education and Ofqual. We will share further details as soon as possible.
We are providing a range of measures to help our students and schools manage the impact of the pandemic. Our next update for schools is scheduled for Thursday 7 January, when we will share any further details we can about arrangements for exams.
We will continue to monitor the situation in the UK and around the world and listen to feedback from our schools to see what further support they need.
If you have any questions, you can review our frequently asked questions, or contact us via our help channel.
We wish everyone in the Cambridge International community well at this time.
Pearson Edexcel – 5 January 2021
Statement regarding Pearson general qualifications following today’s announcement on UK national restrictions (4 January 2021)
You will have seen this evening’s announcement by the UK government on further national restrictions being implemented in the UK, including UK school closures. We know that you will be thinking through and dealing with the implications of this across all areas of life and work – for yourselves, your families and your local and educational communities.
We would like to reassure you that we are working with the UK Department for Education and Ofqual to understand the implications of today’s announcements for our general qualifications. We will share further details as soon as we are able, via email, social media and on this webpage. You can also contact us directly with any queries.
Some of you may have queries about the January examination series for International GCSE and International A Level, which are due to start later this week. International GCSEs and International A Levels are used by students around the world and, as such, these exams are still intended to be available as planned. We are conscious that some schools will have students who are due to sit International GCSEs in January, but are now required to close due to national restrictions. We will be in touch very shortly with confirmation on arrangements here.
As always, we remain committed to helping schools manage the ongoing impact of COVID-19, and will be in touch again with further details as soon as they become available.