GCSE: Strong desire for exams' return, says Ofqual boss

Teachers in 'invidious position', facing 'intrusive parental interest' over GCSE and A-level grading, says Ofqual boss

Catherine Lough

GCSEs and A levels 2022: 'Strong desire' for exams after teacher-assessed grades, says Ofqual chief Simon Lebus

Ofqual's interim chief regulator has said that the experience of teacher-assessed grading this year has left the profession with a "strong desire" to see the return of exams.

Simon Lebus said that, in the past, "exams were generally suffered rather than loved" but that the experience of having no exams meant people were eager to see their return for 2022.


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Speaking at the Girls' Schools Association summer briefing, he added that teachers had been put in an "invidious" position in having to assess GCSEs and A levels this year following the cancellation of public exams. 

Mr Lebus said that "in normal times" rolling out a process of teacher assessment would be considered "revolutionary".

"In practice, we have had to roll these new arrangements out in a matter of months, an incredibly short period of time, given the scale and complexity of what is being done," he added.

GCSEs and A levels: People want exams back in 2022, says Ofqual chief

"I am very aware of the extra burden of work that this has placed on teachers and also the potentially rather invidious position in which it places you – balancing the need to be fair and dispassionate in exercising your professional judgement with the desire to see your students do as well as possible in the context of a dreadful 18 months during which they (and you) will have experienced a huge amount of disruption and uncertainty.

"I know also, in some cases, that the challenge of managing that tension has been further compounded by anxiety about heightened and occasionally intrusive parental interest and expectation."

Mr Lebus said there was a very "high threshold" to meet for submitting appeals this year, and that candidates would not be able to make speculative appeals because they were near a grade boundary.

"As I mentioned earlier, I spent several years running Cambridge’s various exam boards, including OCR, and was always very struck whilst doing so that, perhaps unsurprisingly, exams were generally suffered rather than loved as an institution, albeit that they were generally felt to be the fairest and most reliable method for managing student progression. In this context, interestingly, the experience of being without exams seems to have stimulated a strong desire to return to using them in 2022," he added.

"The final decision on that lies with government, but what is clear is that next year’s arrangements will need the resilience to be able to cope with what is still a very uncertain public health situation and will need to reflect the reality that the cohort sitting them will have suffered a measure of learning loss, and in the case of A-level students, will not previously have sat public exams."

Mr Lebus has previously said that it is uncertain whether there will be a return of "full-fat" exams in 2022.

Speaking at the GSA, he added that education was undergoing a "sea change", and that one of the big issues in the future would be the use of technology in assessment, such as "the ability to take exams online and to sit them remotely, using remote invigilation".

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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