GCSEs 2021: Subject matter cut down for autumn exams

Changes to ancient history, history and English literature GCSEs planned for summer 2021 exams will go ahead in autumn

Catherine Lough

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Ofqual has said that GCSE and A-level exams sat in the autumn of this year will cover a reduced amount of material in some subjects – as had been planned for the cancelled exams in the summer. 

This cut back version of the exams was put in place in response to the disruption to Year 11 students' education caused by the Covid crisis, before summer exams were cancelled by the prime minister at the start of the year.

Background: ‘Tinkering’ over the huge challenge of 2021 GCSEs condemned

News: English GCSE students can drop a text in 2021

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Now Ofqual has confirmed that this approach will be used in the autumn.

"The exams will be in their normal format, with no adaptations being made," the regulator said today.

GCSEs and A levels 2021: Autumn exams will have a reduced number of topics in some subjects

"Reasonable adjustments will be made for disabled students.

"For clarification, the exams will assess students in the same way as had been planned for exams in summer 2021.

"For example, in GCSE English literature, history and ancient history, students will answer questions on a reduced number of topics. In GCSE and AS geography, students will not have to answer questions in the exam about their own fieldwork experience.

"In GCSE MFL, students will have a speaking endorsement rather than a speaking test."

Before the cancellation of this year's exams in January, Ofqual had announced that some changes would be made.

This included greater choice in GCSE history and ancient history exams and GCSE English literature candidates being able to drop one of the set texts in their course.

There was also no requirement for GCSE students to be assessed on geography fieldwork and science practicals.

At the time, headteachers criticised the changes as merely "tinkering at the edges", considering the huge challenges facing pupils and schools in the pandemic.

And this month, heads have also condemned the idea of holding an autumn series of exams, with the Association of School and College Leaders arguing that it will create "more problems than it solves".

“The whole point of cancelling public exams this summer was because the pandemic has affected the learning of students to varying extents," Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, said.

"This will still be the case in the autumn, and the idea of an exam series at that point in time is just as problematic as it would have been in the summer."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The National Tutoring Programme is providing high quality, targeted support for the children who need it most, with almost 210,000 pupils now enrolled from over 5,000 schools.

“The programme forms part of £1.7 billion being invested in ambitious catch-up activity, and we are working with parents, teachers and schools to develop a long-term plan to make sure all pupils recover from the impact of the pandemic as quickly and comprehensively as possible.

“We are finalising the procurement process for the supplier of the Programme for next academic year, and will set out further details shortly.”


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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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