Third Covid wave 'could cancel GCSE and A-level exams'

Former Ofqual board member says if exams are cancelled he expects centre-assessed grades to be used without an algorithm
4th November 2020, 4:20pm

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Third Covid wave 'could cancel GCSE and A-level exams'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/third-covid-wave-could-cancel-gcse-and-level-exams
Coronavirus: Former Ofqual Board Member Barnaby Lenon Says Centre-assessed Grades Could Be Used In 2021 If Gcse & A-level Exams Are Cancelled

Next year's GCSE and A-level exams would have to be cancelled in the event of a "third wave" of Covid-19, a former Ofqual board member has warned.

Barnaby Lenon, who is also chair of the Independent Schools Council, told a conference today that, if this happens, he thinks centre-assessed grades will be used again - but without an algorithm that factors in past school performance.

He also told the Independent Education Live event today that "nothing could be worse" than what happened with this summer's exams - where a plan to use moderated grades was ditched after A-level results day because of the public response.


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He was asked whether the government's plan for delaying exams in 2021 was fair and what other steps might be needed.

Coronavirus: What if GCSE and A-level exams are cancelled again?

Mr Lenon said: "Nothing could be worse than summer 2020. Pushing the exams into June is a small but perfectly reasonable decision. It makes the exam timetable more pressurised, it puts a bit more pressure on marking but it is a perfectly reasonable thing to do

"The most important thing is that we want the GCSEs and A levels to actually happen. We don't know whether they will happen for sure because it will depend on Covid, but obviously that is plan A."

Mr Lenon said that Ofqual's plan to make some topics optional rather than compulsory at GCSE should help to compensate for students' lost learning time.

But he added: "So the big worry really is what happens if there are no exams. What happens if we get a third wave essentially in the summer and it is felt that it was too dangerous to hold exams. 

"I think we would have to use centre-assessed grades and rank orders again, maybe with some moderation, but they certainly won't use an algorithm, they won't use historical data like they did last year [2019-20]."

Mr Lenon also told the conference that it was not possible for the exams system to solve the problem of measuring different levels of disruption faced by exam students as a result of the coronavirus.

He added: "If people say, as they do, understandably, that these exams are very unfair because some pupils missed more work than others, that is absolutely true.

"It is pretty hard to imagine, for example, anyone adjusting the grades for loss of learning, because we are talking about millions of students, all of whom have had different amounts of learning loss one way or another. 

"This can't be fairly adjusted for - it is too complicated - so the users of exam grades have to be encouraged to make allowances as they did last summer.

"Universities, schools and sixth-form colleges need to know how much disruption there has been to each student's education and then they can make allowances."

Mr Lenon said that the government has not yet announced what will happen if a significant number of students miss exams or if exams cannot go ahead.

He added: "The reason they haven't announced that is because they need everybody to believe these exams are going to happen in summer 2021 and, therefore, the focus right now should be on catch-up.

"I think this is probably quite right. They don't want to give anyone - teachers or pupils - the impression that these exams might not happen." 

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