With exams set to return next summer, the Department for Education and Ofqual have confirmed their approach to grading will reflect a “mid-way point” between 2019 and 2021.
Next year will be a “transition year” to reflect the recovery period and will mean that more students will get higher grades in 2022 than before the pandemic.
They said this will provide a “safety net” for this year’s students, who have encountered much disruption due to the pandemic, with results expected to return to the usual grade profile by 2023.
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said exams are the “fairest way to assess students”.
“We’ve put fairness at the heart of our approach and listened to pupils, teachers and parents,” said Zahawi.
The Government and Ofqual have also confirmed changes such as a choice of topics in some GCSE exams, support materials and advance information on the focus of some exams – however, this will not come until February.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, welcomed the announcement but said it had come “far too late”.
We’ve put fairness at the heart of our approach and listened to pupils, teachers and parents – Nadhim Zahawi, education secretary
Bousted continued: “Only giving advanced information about the exams in time for revision will result in a ‘topic lottery’ where some students will have happened to have covered the topics on the exam in sufficient depth and others may well have not.
“Being told what the focus of the exam is after teaching and learning has finished is of no use if the focus of the exam is something you haven’t had chance to cover in sufficient depth, which would be the case for many due to the pandemic.
“This will have a disproportionate impact on those who suffered the greatest disruption to learning due to Covid – more often than not, the most disadvantaged students.”
David Robinson, director of post-16 and skills at the Education Policy Institute, said the plans for grading are the “fairest and most pragmatic” approach.
Though he warned: “A chief concern of ours that is yet to be addressed by the government is the large gap between students taking academic and vocational qualifications.
“Academic students saw far greater increases in their grades in 2020 and 2021 and may continue to do so under these plans. The government must take action and provide assurances to vocational students that they will not lose out under this system.”
Teacher-assessed grades have been confirmed as a contingency measure if exams cannot go ahead.