IGCSEs 2021: Cambridge Assessment cancels UK exams

Decision to switch to teacher assessment comes week after exam board apologised for delay in finalising plans for qualifications

Amy Gibbons

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Exam board Cambridge Assessment has announced it is cancelling its IGCSE and IA-level exams in the UK, and will instead award grades based on teacher assessment.

The exam board apologised last week for the delay in coming to a decision on how to award the qualifications in the UK this year, after the government cancelled exams owing to disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

Now it has confirmed that it will use teacher assessments in place of exams to award IGCSEs and IA levels in the UK in 2021.


Related: Cambridge Assessment 'sorry' for exam decision delay

Background: Cambridge Assessment could scrap UK exams

Assessment: OxfordAQA cancels IGCSE and IA levels


The board said in a statement: "For the small number of countries and regions within countries where directives from national or local authorities make it impossible for exams go ahead, today we can confirm that we will switch from exams to a teacher assessment approach using student work.

"We will share an outline of our approach with schools and information about next steps next week. 

"For schools in the United Kingdom, this means that exams for Cambridge IGCSE, O level, and International AS and A level will no longer take place. We will say next week how we will enable private candidates to be assessed."

The move comes after the two other boards that set IGCSEs and IA levels – Pearson and OxfordAQA – both decided to cancel exams in favour of teacher-assessed grades in all countries.

Cambridge Assessment also confirmed that Cambridge Pre-U exams will not take place this year.

It said: "A note on Cambridge Pre-U: in agreement with Ofqual, we can now confirm that Cambridge Pre-U examinations will not take place. We are working with Ofqual to understand their regulatory requirements so that we can confirm how grades will be awarded as soon as possible."

An international head, who wished to remain anonymous, told Tes: "Given that 60 per cent of my students have applied to UK universities off the back of their A level results and many are studying Cambridge courses, we are now very concerned that our students may be disadvantaged by this as exam assessed grades will be competing against teacher assessed grades for students in the UK who are applying to the same universities and courses as our students.

"We are unsure of what the percentage of entries with Cambridge are from the UK (or other areas that have cancelled exams) but surely these students have an advantage now even if it a perceived one amongst students and parents."

They added: "We are also baffled as to how Cambridge will be able to produce final grades given that usually grade boundaries are set after exams are completed with raw marks then being placed onto a bell curve to set final grades.

"If as last year, teacher assessment produces grades and not raw scores how can raw scores from exams and grades from teacher assessment work together to produce final grades?

"I am sure Cambridge will announce how this works but the inconsistency persists and seems to be worsening and will probably now result in schools exempting students from as much as they can in qualifications where Cambridge have given us this option."

CEO of Cambridge International Christine Ozden said the board will share more information with UK schools on the process next week.

"We work with 10,000 schools in 160 different countries, and continue to listen to and consider their feedback, when making decisions about our June 2021 exam series," she said.

"Our key priorities throughout this challenging time are to keep students safe, whilst enabling them to progress with their education.

"For students in the very small number of countries and regions within countries, where directives from national or local authorities make it impossible for exams to go ahead (including the UK), we will switch from exams to a teacher assessment approach using students work. We will share an outline of our approach with these schools, and information about next steps next week.

"For Cambridge International students in all other countries, we are planning for exams to go ahead, where it is permitted and safe. We have created extensive extra measures to support them and their schools, including adjustments to aspects of assessments, and exemptions from components that are difficult to run during the pandemic.

"We have also expanded our special considerations process to enable students to receive a grade, when for good reason they miss some exams.

"We are working closely with our regional teams worldwide, to monitor the situation in countries where we work. We will update schools immediately if it becomes clear that exams cannot go ahead in their country or region, and we need to switch to an approach based on teacher assessment."

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Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons

Amy Gibbons is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @tweetsbyames

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