GCSES 2022: Exam plan needed by summer, say heads

Teachers need to know 'exactly how next year's exams will work' by the end of this term, says NAHT union

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Teachers need “real clarity” by the end of this term on how next year’s exams will work to avoid another year of "chaos", headteachers leaders have said today.

The union says plans for this years exam series came “very late” and has today set the deadline for when teachers need to know what concessions will be available for pupils next year, for example, greater optionality in exam questions.

Deputy general secretary Nick Brook said there were also questions about creating more teaching time by pushing back exam dates "as late as possible", although he said squeezing the exam timetable could have the “unintended consequence” of not leaving much time for pupils to prepare between exams.

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Speaking to reporters ahead of the union’s AGM today, Mr Brook said: “There’s a whole range of very tricky questions that need to be worked out but we need to be having this conversation now and those conversations are starting with the DfE…but the most important point of all is that there needs to be a plan B because we haven’t got a crystal ball in terms of knowing exactly what is going to be happening next year.”

Following the cancellation of GCSEs and A levels this year, teachers said lack of consideration for Year 11 was “staggering” and that schools had been subjected to “a zigzag of indecision”. 

NAHT director of policy James Bowen said: “It’s really important that by the end of this academic year we have real clarity on what it [exams] will look like for next year.

“Because if you’re a school leader or a teacher, you need to go into the start of the next academic year with your pupils knowing exactly how the exams and assessments will work, and if that means having a plan A and a plan B – great – but we need to know so if there is going to be this idea of optionality - which has some sense and logic to it – fine –but we need to know that ahead of September.

“What we can’t have is teachers spending the first term teaching and going through content only to find out that the exams are going to be slightly different in January.

“I think that clarity up front that allows teachers and leaders to support pupils as best they possible can is vital in all this. Beyond September it’s almost too late. It starts disrupting the learning that is already taking place.”

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman told reporters: “What we failed to do in 2021…was to plan for the chaos that we’re in right now and therefore the plans for this year came very late”.

The DfE has been contacted for comment.

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