Exams 2021 IB exams should not take place, says Gibb

Comments mean IGCSE and international A levels are the only exams still set to take place this year in England

Dan Worth

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Students in England who study the International Baccalaureate (IB) appear unlikely to sit exams this year after comments made by minister for school standards Nick Gibb in Parliament on Monday.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Gibb said that, with GCSE and A-level exams not going ahead, IB exams should not proceed either.

“Although exams are the fairest way of assessing what a student knows, it is no longer viable for exams to go ahead as planned, so International Baccalaureate students should be subject to a similar approach to GCSEs and A levels.

“Working with Ofqual, we are consulting on alternative arrangements for fairly awarding grades in qualifications, including the IB, when exams do not take place, so that students can progress to the next stage of their lives.”

He added: “We are talking about teacher-assessed grades but with the evidence base and checks and balances, as set out in the consultation document.”

His statement was made in response to a question about what arrangements his department has made for examinations in 2021 for International Baccalaureate students, posed by Gareth Johnson MP.

Tes contacted the DfE for clarification on whether this means the IB exams will now definitely not happen or if it is in discussions with the IB on this issue. 

The IB was also contacted for comment and it directed Tes to a statement on its website from 6 January.

Commenting on the development, David James, deputy head of an independent school in London, said many IB coordinators had been under the impression exams were going ahead.

As such, he said urgent clarification was needed to understand how things would proceed to avoid any more wasted time.

“Nick Gibb’s statement to the house makes these examinations in the UK untenable. Time is now of the essence: if they are not going to be held, then teachers and students need to direct their attention to how they will be assessed in order for them to progress to the next stage of their education,” he said.

“It will be utterly pointless spending lesson time preparing for exams which probably won’t take place. Better for students to concentrate on the significant amount of coursework they have to complete and submit for moderation, together with teacher-assessed grades.”

IGCSE and IA levels 

The move means that IGCSE and international A-level exams will be the only exams set to take place in England this year, with exam boards stating that they intend for these papers to be issued as normal.

Many independent schools in the UK use these exams, meaning there are teachers and students still preparing to sit the assessments in the summer as normal.

This, though, has caused concern among teachers who teach these exams and the IB, suggesting it will create an unlevel playing field between students who received teacher assessed grades and those that have ot sit exams.

There is also no clear insight on what happens if students are unable, say for medical reasons, to sit these exams or if new lockdown measures would make holding the exams possible.

However, because IGCSE and International A Levels are not regulated by Ofqual the government cannot intervene directly to force these exams not to take place. 

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