GCSEs 2021 autumn exams: Fear of teacher ‘pressure’

Proposal that students sitting GCSE and A-level exams this autumn be tested on full curriculum without advance materials

Catherine Lough

GCSEs and A levels 2021: Students sitting autumn exams should do so without advance revision materials, suggests Ofqual

Exams regulator Ofqual has proposed that students sitting GCSE and A-level exams as part of an autumn series in 2021 should not be given advance materials to help them revise because this could create additional pressure for teachers.

In the regulator's consultation on the 2021 summer exams, which were subsequently cancelled, Ofqual proposed that students could be given advance information on topics covered in the exams to help them with their revision.

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But in a consultation on whether to hold an autumn GCSE, AS- and A-level series in 2021 – open from today until 9 April – Ofqual suggests that students sitting exams in autumn 2021 should not have access to any advance materials before they sit exams.

The regulator says that where students taking autumn exams this year are taught in a school or college, "the publication of advance information could place additional pressures on teachers".

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"Teachers would need to familiarise themselves with the materials to support any such students. Again, this would be at a time when teachers were teaching new year groups and continuing to support their students to catch up with their education," the regulator adds.

Ofqual says that, as exam boards do not usually run a full autumn series, providing advance materials for students could create additional burdens and costs for the boards.

And the regulator cautions that advance materials could create unfairness in the system, with students who can access private tutors gaining an advantage.

"It is likely that students, on seeing advance information, were it to be published ahead of the autumn exams, would want support and guidance on how best they should prepare for the exams, in light of this information," Ofqual says.

"There is a risk that the provision of advance information would advantage students who either continued to have access to their subject teachers or who were able to secure support in other ways, for example through private tutors. This would introduce a degree of unfairness that we believe should be avoided."

Ofqual adds that in responses to its December 2020 consultation, a number of respondents suggested "that the provision of advance information would have a negative impact on some students, particularly if they were not supported and guided in how to use them".

It says advance materials being provided could also mean that teachers can no longer use the autumn series papers for mock exams in the future, as students would use the materials to narrow the focus of their revision, which would be unhelpful for them when approaching their real exams in the summer.

Unlike teacher-assessed grades used this summer, where teachers will only assess students on content they have been taught, Ofqual also proposes that the autumn 2021 series should cover all aspects of the normal exam syllabus, and that the exam papers prepared for the cancelled summer series could be used.

The regulator says that if the exam papers are in a familiar format, it will be helpful for students, "who will likely have seen and practised taking past papers".

"It will also allow the exam boards, if they wish, to use the papers written for the summer 2021 exams that were cancelled," the regulator adds.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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