IGCSEs 2021: Cambridge Assessment could scrap UK exams

Exam board 'looking at switching' from exams to teacher-assessed grades in countries where exams have been cancelled

Catherine Lough and Dan Worth

Coronavirus: Cambridge Assessment could scrap UK exams for IGCSEs and I A levels

Exam board Cambridge Assessment has said it is "looking at switching from exams to an approach based on teacher assessment" for its IGCSE and IA-levels qualifications in the UK due to the government's decision to cancel all exams this year.

In an email to schools seen by Tes, the exam board says: "For the small number of countries (such as Mexico and the UK) and regions within countries where running exams is not possible because of directives from national or regional authorities, we are looking at switching from exams to an approach based on teacher assessment.

"This would apply to all schools in those countries and regions. We will provide a further update next week."

Further news

Exams 2021: OxfordAQA cancels IGCSE and IA levels

Assessment: International schools split on exams plans

IGCSE and IAlevels 2021: Pearson scraps exams in U-turn

The board, which runs qualifications in 160 countries, also announced today that it would be expanding its special considerations process for "students who for good reason miss some components they were entered for".

"As long as these students have taken at least one assessment component, they can receive a grade," the board said. "This is a temporary measure in response to the pandemic. We will say more about this next week."

IGCSEs and IA levels 2021: Fears of 'international postcode lottery' over exams

Any changes will relate to its June 2021 exam series for Cambridge IGCSE, Cambridge O level and Cambridge International AS and A level.

The move shows that the exam board is still keen to stick with exams where possible, despite the two other boards that set IGCSEs and IA levels – Pearson and OxfordAQA – having both decided to cancel exams in favour of teacher-assessed grades in all countries.

It means that international schools could face a situation where exams that they are expecting to take place could be cancelled at a moment's notice if the government of that country changes the rules around school openings.

One international head told Tes that the decision was like an "international postcode lottery" that would cause a lot of concern for all involved.

"It could change at any time if local conditions change, throwing students, staff and parents into last-minute chaos. We now have two boards out and one in. System consistency is even more in question now." 

The news from Cambridge Assessment follows on from an announcement by the International Baccalaureate that it would adopt a "dual route" for its May 2021 Diploma with schools using either exams or teacher assessments.

It seems likely that UK schools that use the IB will end up with teacher-assessed grades, given that the UK government has already suggested it is expecting this of the IB.

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