Full GCSEs in most subjects 'unrealistic' next year

Teachers also concerned about 'a lack of understanding' shown by fewer adjustments for A-level candidates next summer
2nd July 2020, 2:09pm


Full GCSEs in most subjects 'unrealistic' next year

Coronavirus: Ofqual's Proposed Changes To Next Year's Gcses & A Levels Don't Go Far Enough, Warns Union

Teachers have criticised the exams regulator for not going far enough when it comes to adjusting exams next year to account for the time students have missed during the pandemic.

Today, Ofqual published details of a new consultation on GCSEs and A levels in 2021, with proposals to postpone the start date of exams and remove coursework requirements in some subjects.

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In GCSE history and ancient history, more choice over the topics students are examined in may be introduced.

However, the NEU teaching union has said that, under the proposals, students are still expected to cover the content of the full specification in most subjects, and it has criticised the proposals for being "unrealistic".

Coronavirus: Changes for next year's GCSEs 'don't go far enough'

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the NEU, said: "The NEU is seriously concerned about the minimal suggestions made in Ofqual's proposals for exams in summer 2021.

"It is welcome that the options for each subject have been considered based on the nature of that subject, as opposed to suggesting generic changes that may not suit each one. However, in the majority of subjects the expectation that the full specification can be covered by next summer, after many months of lost teaching time, still remains."

She added: "This expectation is unrealistic - delaying exams by two or three weeks next summer can't make up for the months already lost, never mind any further potential time that may be lost due to subsequent waves of the virus or local spikes and lockdowns.

"The changes suggested to help reduce some tasks which take up large amounts of teaching hours sound generally helpful, but the Department for Education and Ofqual need to go further ​with changes to exam content, otherwise they risk driving inequality in the system and undermining the results awarded next summer."

Ms Ellis also said that the idea that A-level students needed less adjustment to their exams because they were older suggested a "lack of understanding of the situation that many students face".

"If there is a lack of access to computers, broadband or positive working environments for an A-level student at home, then the fact they are a year or two older than their GCSE counterparts doesn't mean these barriers suddenly disappear," she said. 

In the consultation guidance, Ofqual says: "Generally we have proposed fewer changes for AS and A levels than we have for GCSEs.

"This is because AS- and A-level students are older, they are likely to be more motivated to study the narrower range of subjects of their choice and they should be better independent learners."

An Ofqual spokesperson said: "Our consultation on a range of proposals for GCSEs, AS- and A-level assessment in 2021 will remain open until 16 July, and we will announce our final decisions in August, before the start of the new academic year. We welcome responses from all stakeholders, including trade unions and subject associations, and will consider their views as we make our final decisions."

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: "From September, all children will be back in schools and colleges, enabling older students to prepare for exams next summer.

"We have prioritised bringing Year 10 and Year 12 students back this term, but some may still be concerned by the impact of school closures on their grades. I want to reassure them - and their families - that we are committed to ensuring they are supported to fulfil their potential.  

 "The range of measures proposed by Ofqual, including the possible short delay to the exam timetable and subject-specific changes to reduce pressure on teaching time, will further ensure those young people taking exams next year have the same opportunities to progress as the students before them." 

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