GCSEs 2021: No science practicals, more history choice

Ofqual consulting on significant changes to 2021 exams to take account of learning lost owing to coronavirus
2nd July 2020, 9:16am

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GCSEs 2021: No science practicals, more history choice

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/gcses-2021-no-science-practicals-more-history-choice
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Major changes to how GCSEs are run in 2021 have been proposed by Ofqual. 

The proposals, which take into account learning lost owing to coronavirus, include removing the need for practicals in science GCSEs and greater choice in history GCSE questions.


News: Ofqual proposes late GCSE start date for 2021

Related: Unrealistic' to run full GCSE course in most subjects

Coronavirus: All GCSEs and A levels to be offered this autumn


For sciences, the regulator is proposing that the requirement on schools "to confirm that GCSE biology, chemistry, physics and combined science students have been given the opportunity to undertake practical science work is changed so that teachers could, if they wish, allow their students to observe others undertaking the practical work". 

Under Ofqual's proposals, schools would also be given a choice which GCSE history and ancient history topics on students would be required to answer exam questions on. 

"We believe that, in the circumstances, this is acceptable and the fairest way to mitigate the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) for students taking GCSE history or ancient history exams in summer 2021 and that the proposed changes will not have an undue impact on students' successful progression to A level," the regulator's consultation published today says. 

Ofqual is also proposing to change the requirements for GCSE art and design. Pupils must usually complete a portfolio of work, worth 60 per cent of the qualification, and a non-exam assessment task, set under timed conditions.

"Students might need access to specialist equipment within their school or college to complete their work - it cannot simply be undertaken at home," Ofqual said - adding that it therefore proposes that pupils only be assessed on their portfolio.

  • The regulator has also proposed relaxing the requirement for A-level dance candidates to perform as part of a quartet, allowing them to perform two solos instead.
  • In GCSE and A-level design and technology, pupils will be able to watch teachers demonstrate the use of machinery rather than use the machinery themselves.
  • GCSE drama students will be able to watch streamed or recorded live performances rather than going to the theatre.

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