Exclusive: Williamson ‘must act now’ on 2022 GCSEs

Current Year 10 ‘probably has worst deal of the lot’ during pandemic – and next year’s exam content needs to be cut, says union boss

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Teachers are playing “curriculum bingo” when it comes to teaching next year’s GCSE syllabus and need to be told now what their pupils will be assessed on in 2022, the president of the NEU teaching union has warned.

Robin Bevan says teachers cannot teach the whole GCSE curriculum owing to the disruption to their pupils’ learning and are are having to guess what will come up next summer.

Mr Bevan has called for teachers to be given advance notice of any intended concessions for next year’s GCSE exams and wants a 25 per cent reduction in exam content, which he says is equivalent to dropping one English text.

Speaking to Tes, Mr Bevan said that education secretary Gavin Williamson and the Department for Education (DfE) seemed to be focusing on, “at most, two to three weeks ahead”, when they ought to be focused on next year and beyond.

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He said: “If you’re not already, as secretary of state, thinking about the [GCSEs in] summer of 2022, you’re in trouble because that’s where you should be – and you probably ought to be a year or two after [that].

He added: “If you know now as a headteacher or a subject teacher what it is you’re working towards for the summer of 2022, then you can begin to put in place plans that ensure that what you’re teaching is focused on what you need to do rather than what I’ve called curriculum bingo.

“This is a kind of game where, at the moment, teachers are having to guess what to teach because they don’t know what’s going to come up in examinations, but they just know that they’re not going to be able to do everything.

“The [DfE] policy level action here is to say that we will issue grades in the summer [in] 18 months’ time on the basis of an equivalent standard. We’re not going to lower the standards but what we’re going to do in every subject is design the assessment so it covers 75 per cent of the content.

"If you tell teachers that now, then the exam boards can tell teachers how that might work, so that might be [say] in English one less text…there are some fine-level details but it’s not a difficult principle to apply.

“The problem is that, if you apply that principle in a year’s time, you’re too late. And it’s that failure to give adequate advance notice that has frustrated [teachers].”

Mr Bevan, who is headteacher of Southend High School for Boys, a grammar school in Essex, said the current Year 10 had “probably had worst deal of the lot” during the Covid pandemic after missing a large chunk of Year 9, where there is “a step up in the level of sophistication required”.

The DfE has been contacted for comment.

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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