GCSEs 2021: Teachers criticise 'shocking' exam material

Teachers express disappointment that exam board material for A level and GCSE grading are all from existing papers that they already had access to

Catherine Lough

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Teachers have criticised exam board materials released to help them award GCSE and A level grades this year, saying they are made up of existing past papers that schools already had access to.

Teacher Tom Finn-Kelcey said the materials released represented a "slapdash" approach in repackaging existing past papers as a new series.


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Exam board guidance released by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) says the optional assessment materials "are made up of a mixture of past material (both material already openly published and material currently only available to [schools]) and new material where required".

In the guidance, JCQ says that exam boards' existing assessment materials will be available to schools - such as past papers - along with additional assessment materials from 31 March.

But teachers have described the released optional materials - all based on past papers - as "shocking" and have expressed frustration over waiting "so long" for something they already had. 

Head of physics Matthew Benyohai commented that he could have made the materials himself in half an hour.

Another teacher said: "I have never been more gobsmacked, I honestly don't think it could be worse. A level physics topic test where they have grabbed screenshot of the question and hastily pasted them together. It's truly shocking."

A level English literature teacher Cathy Savage said: "As far as I can see the only materials offered today are simply on single set texts (Am I missing something??). My gast is well and truly flabbered. We waited months for this? This was a two day admin paper shuffle, tops. Unbelievable."

And one teacher who spoke to Tes on condition of anonymity pointed out that as specifications are "only a couple of years' old, there's only about three to four papers in existence for each subject anyway.

"It narrows the question range hugely," they said, adding that in a cohort of able pupils they taught "they will prep the hell out of those few questions and smash them. They will all get A or A*".

They added that they would face pressure from parents if they chose not to use the exam board assessment materials, taken from past papers, and devised their own assessments as a school. 

A JCQ spokesperson said: "We appreciate that some teachers were expecting new material in the resources provided yesterday, but Ofqual consulted specifically on this point and set out a plan that exam boards have followed.  

"Additional assessment materials from exam boards are therefore a mixture of previously published material and material currently only available to schools and colleges.

"They’re an optional part of the range of evidence that can be used to determine a student’s grade this summer.

"We’ll continue to support the teaching community and exams officers with the use of these materials over the coming months."

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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