‘Tinkering’ over huge challenge of 2021 GCSEs condemned

Headteachers have expressed disappointment over the lack of wider choice in the 2021 exams

Catherine Lough

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Headteachers have criticised the government's confirmed changes to next year's GCSE and A-level exams as merely "tinkering at the edges" considering the huge challenges facing pupils and schools.

Today, exams regulator Ofqual confirmed that there would be greater choice in GCSE ancient history and history exams next year, as well as allowing GCSE English literature candidates to drop one of their set texts.

There will also be no requirement for GCSE students to be assessed on geography fieldwork and science practicals.


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However, headteachers say students should also have been given wider choice in the questions they can answer.

Duncan Baldwin, deputy policy director at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We remain concerned that these plans for exams in 2021 amount only to tinkering at the edges when it is clear that students could experience widespread ongoing disruption over the course of the next academic year.

“Everybody can see that the situation with coronavirus remains precarious. It appears to be likely that students will have to intermittently self-isolate, and that schools will be required to fully or partially close in response to local infection spikes.

“This makes it extremely challenging to deliver all the content for GCSEs and A levels to all students, on top of the disruption that has already taken place to their learning.

“In our consultation response, we set out some measures which would have helped to make this situation more manageable, such as increased choice within exams over the questions that students can answer.

"We are pleased that Ofqual has decided to introduce more choice of questions in GCSE English literature but disappointed that such approaches have not been adopted more widely.

“We also suggested that there should be a parallel assessment process, which could be used to inform a student’s grades in the event of them not being able to sit an exam as planned, or having missed significant parts of their learning. 

“It is very worrying that this has also not been adopted, and we hope this decision does not come back to haunt us in the months to come.”

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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