Ofqual was aware that a lack of modifications to the autumn exam series would mean "some students could be examined on aspects that they have not been taught", it has emerged.
In the regulator's minutes for a meeting on 17 March 2021, published today, the proposal that exams in the autumn would go ahead in their "normal" format, with none of the modifications planned for the summer series, was discussed, with "student preparedness" raised as a "key concern".
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"Ofqual had consulted in December on potential adaptations for summer exams in 2021, before the government’s January decision that exams should not go ahead in summer 2021," the minutes say.
"Responses had emphasised the need for student support to manage adaptations, and risks to disadvantaged and disabled students where support was not available," they add.
Concerns over students' readiness for GCSE and A-level autumn exams
"It was noted that most students would not have opportunity to be supported to understand the impact of adaptations for autumn examinations, which argued in favour of these examinations being in the normal form.
"This would also reduce burden for exam boards and centres."
Ofqual's board questioned whether not adjusting the autumn series was the right choice to make in the proposals.
"It was informed that the potential negative impact on disadvantaged and disabled students had factored significantly in the proposals, informed by the December consultation outcomes," the minutes say.
"The proposal will, however, mean that some students could be examined on aspects that they have not been taught."
It says that these points would be considered alongside responses to the consultation on autumn exams in "forming Ofqual's policy post-consultation".
The board said it would delegate approval of the decisions arising from the autumn series consultation to the chief regulator, Simon Lebus, in consultation with chair Ian Bauckham.
The news comes after Tes reported yesterday that Ofqual has put out to tender a contract for researchers to run focus groups on attitudes to grading distributions in 2022, which suggests that students taking exams next year will not be held to the same standards as those sitting exams pre-pandemic.
Yesterday, The i reported that teachers had raised concerns over the fairness of autumn's GCSE and A-level resit exams, with teachers saying it was likely students would be tested on topics they had not been taught.
Before the 2021 GCSE and A-level exams were cancelled, Ofqual had planned to give students advance notice of topics to help revision focus, as well as more choice of topic in some subjects, such as GCSE English literature. It has consulted on similar modifications for use in the 2022 series.