GCSEs 2022: Make geography exams fairer, Ofqual told

A lack of contingency plans for next year's exams is 'unacceptable and deeply disappointing', say heads

Catherine Lough

Ofsted has produced a research review into geography teaching.

Plans to adjust GCSE geography exams in 2022 following disruption caused by the Covid pandemic should be made fairer to bring them into line with adjustments to English literature and history, heads have told the exams regulator.

In its response to the Department for Education and Ofqual's consultation on GCSEs and A levels next year, the Association of School and College Leaders said: "The optionality proposed for geography is significantly more restricted than the optionality afforded to English literature and history, with only a choice between two sections in one of the papers."


GCSEs 2022: Geography teachers 'gutted' at exam changes

GCSEs 2022: DfE and Ofqual set out exam 'adaptations'

Exams: What Ofqual proposals mean for your subject


"As this change is being made over halfway through the course for most schools and colleges, this will place some centres at an unfair disadvantage depending on their curriculum sequencing.

"We would prefer an approach to optionality in geography which is more in line with that offered in history and English literature," ASCL added.

They said that introducing these changes "over halfway through the course may seriously disadvantage some centres and their candidates who have already prioritised the teaching of the now optional elements".

And it added that if the proposals for geography went ahead, pupils should have advance notice of exam topics as they would in other subjects apart from English literature and history.

ASCL said it was "disappointing" that the consultation had been released so late and also commented on the lack of contingency options for 2022 if exams could not go ahead.

Tom Middlehurst, curriculum and inspection specialist at ASCL, said: “Broadly, we support these proposals and welcome the consultation exercise with education leaders that has been carried out by the government. 

“We are pleased that the government is proposing to enable more choice in the questions students answer in some subjects, such as English literature and history, though we would have liked to see this extended to more subjects.

“To assist young people facing exams in 2022, it is right that exam boards will provide advance information about the content for the majority of GCSE, AS and A-level assessments in the spring term. And it is also right that, if there is continued disruption to learning during the early part of the new academic year, there is flexibility to release this information to schools and colleges earlier.

“However, it is unacceptable and deeply disappointing that important lessons on contingency planning have not been learned from the past year by the government. This consultation does not include contingency arrangements should exams next summer have to be cancelled and schools, colleges and students will start the autumn unclear about what the government’s plans are in this scenario.

Previously, geography teachers said they felt "gutted" and "screwed" by proposals to make GCSE modules that they might have already taught to their students only optional next summer. 

Under the consultation plans, paper 1 modules would be optional, but those in papers 2 and 3 would be left unchanged.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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