GCSEs 2021: Deadline for exams plan to be missed by DfE

GCSE and A-level contingency plans will not be published this month as had been promised, Tes has been told

John Roberts

Heads are extremely frustrated at the lack of contingency plans for exams, ASCL have warned.

A headteacher's leader has warned that frustration is growing in schools with the Ofqual and Department for Education failure to produce exam contingency plans before the end of this month.

The Department for Education will not be publishing the GCSE and A-level plans in November, Tes understands, despite previously stating that details would be set out this month.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that clarity over how next year's exams would work was now "desperately and urgently needed".

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In a letter to the education secretary Gavin Williamson on 5 November, Ofqual's acting chief regulator Dame Glenys Stacey had indicated that such plans would be produced this month.

She had said: "We are working with your officials and with exam boards to develop contingency proposals for you to consider, so that all in the system are prepared for the full range of scenarios we might together face.

"Meanwhile, with Minister [Nick] Gibb and your officials, we are discussing contingency options for all likely scenarios with school and college leaders and other stakeholders, so that your decisions will be informed by their views.

"Together, we expect to be in a position to provide advice as to then allow you to determine and confirm contingency arrangements with the sector in November."

However, tonight the DfE said an announcement would be made in the coming weeks.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Exams are the fairest way of judging a student’s performance, which is why Ofqual and the government agree they should go ahead next year.

“We are working closely with stakeholders on a comprehensive set of measures that will ensure exams can be held and students will have the best possible opportunity to do themselves justice – we will set out our plans in the coming weeks.”

Ofqual declined to comment.

Mr Barton said: “Schools and colleges will be extremely frustrated if November slips by and there is still no further announcement about exam arrangements for next summer.

"They must have certainty about contingency arrangements and what further measures will be put in place to ensure that these exams will be fair to pupils in light of the huge disruption to learning caused by Covid.

"We have been talking to Ofqual and the Department for Education about these issues for a long time but the discussion never seems to reach a point at which a decision is actually made.

"We appreciate that this is a hugely complex and difficult exercise but clarity over next year’s exams is desperately and urgently needed.”

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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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