Autumn exam series 2021: What does it mean for FE?

Students eligible to receive teacher-assessed grades this summer will be able to take exams in the autumn, says Ofqual

Kate Parker

The autumn exam series 2021: What Ofqual's plan means for FE colleges

College students who receive teacher-assessed grades this summer will have the opportunity to be assessed again in new exams being held in the autumn, Ofqual has confirmed. 

In a statement published today, Ofqual said the exams will be in their normal format, with no adaptations made, with AS- and A-level exams to be held in October and GCSE exams in November and December. 

Exam boards will also be allowed to offer GCSE English language and GCSE maths exams in January 2022 for students who were eligible to enter the autumn exams but did not do so. 

GCSEs 2021: Autumn exams offered for all subjects

More: Autumn exam series a 'costly and unnecessary diversion'

Ofqual assessment plans: What FE staff need to know

When it comes to vocational and technical assessment, Ofqual said that awarding organisations are required to make assessment available to learners who were eligible to receive a teacher-assessed grade this summer.

In plans released in February, Ofqual said that vocational and technical qualifications most like GCSEs and A levels and used for progression to FE or HE, including Btecs, Cambridge Nationals/Technicals and International Baccalaureate, would receive teacher-assessed grades. 

However, assessments for VTQs used for direct entry to employment and used to demonstrate occupational or professional competence would go ahead in a Covid-secure way. 

In the statement today, Ofqual's said: "[The VTQ Contingency Regulatory Framework] requires awarding organisations:

  • who normally provide assessment opportunities between September and January of an academic year to additionally make those assessments available to learners who were eligible to receive a result through a teacher-assessed grade, as well as those who would ordinarily take an assessment at that time.
  • who do not normally provide assessment opportunities between September and January to provide those opportunities where it reasonably considers there is sufficient demand and would be manageable to both the awarding organisation and centres.”


Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association said: “It is important that students will have an opportunity to improve their grades in the autumn, and colleges will be working to support those students who want to improve on their summer grades by sitting an exam in the autumn. The challenge for young people, particularly those without access to private tutors and supportive families, is how to prepare”.

Autumn exam series: 'Costly and unnecessary'

In April, the Association of Colleges said a full autumn exam series would be a “costly and unnecessary diversion for students, centres and awarding organisations” – and said the 2020 series attracted just 1 per cent of GCSE summer entries and 2 per cent of summer A-level entries.

In the AoC's consultation response, it said: “2021 will be the second year that a full autumn exam series has been proposed and our view remains that this is a costly and unnecessary diversion for students, centres and awarding organisations. 

“Given the arrangements being put in place to grade all candidates, including private candidates, this summer, there is even less of a case for an autumn series in 2021 than there was in 2020.

"The 2020 autumn series attracted 1 per cent of GCSE summer entries and 2 per cent of summer A-level entries, with some national subject entries having fewer than 100 entries. This is a very poor use of resources and where students do choose to enter, it could distract from their studies in the 2021-22 academic year. We are also concerned that it may serve to widen achievement gaps as more advantaged students may be coached or tutored for autumn series exams.”

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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