Pupils sitting GCSE, A-level and other types of level two and three exams in 2022 may receive advance notice of exam topics for most subjects, the government has suggested as it launched a three-week consultation on examinations.
Other proposals in the government’s consultation include reducing the number of modules in some GCSE examinations, like English literature, history, geography and ancient history, and offering “advance information” to candidates in the spring.
The Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual launched a consultation on proposed arrangements for exams and vocational and technical assessments in 2022 on Monday 12 July.
The proposed changes to GCSEs, AS and A-levels in summer 2022, along with vocational and technical qualifications in the academic year 2021-22, are designed to “mitigate the disruption to students’ education” caused by Covid-19, says the DfE.
Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said, “this should have been put to bed weeks, if not months, ago – we are only days away from the end of term”.
“School leaders wanted decisions for adaptations and contingencies made before the summer break, with details before the start of term in September, not least because August will be a busy month supporting students with their results and working on reviews and appeals,” he added.
GCSEs, AS and A-levels
In the consultation, students, parents and teachers can give their views on suggested arrangements for GCSEs, AS and A levels, which include:
- Giving schools and colleges some choice about the topics or content their students will be assessed in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography tests
- Providing advanced information on the focus of exams, to help students focus revision
- Assessing art students by their portfolio only
- Giving students a formulae sheet in GCSE mathematics and an expanded equations sheet in GCSE physics and combined science
- Changing requirements for practical science work and practical art and design assessments.
The GCSE, AS, and A level consultation will close on 1 August, with plans for summer 2022 exams expected to be confirmed early in the coming autumn term.
With things slowly returning to normal we are launching a consultation so that the flexibility we are building into qualifications will future-proof them against any public health crisis – Simon Lebus, Ofqual
Vocational, technical and other general qualifications (VTQs)
The DfE and Ofqual are proposing minimal changes to arrangements for other qualifications. The proposed arrangements for vocational, technical and other general qualifications (VTQs) build on the 2021 arrangements, enabling awarding organisations to streamline assessments, providing revision guidance, and change invigilation practices. Assessments would commence early in the autumn term.
The consultation on vocational and technical qualifications closes on 26 July, and plans are expected in early August.
“This year we have rightly asked those who know students best – their teachers – to determine young people’s grades,” said education secretary Gavin Williamson.
“While I know the wait for results can be an anxious one, students and their families can look forward to receiving results next month in the knowledge that they will reflect young people’s hard work and enable them to progress to their next stage.
“Exams will always be the fairest way to assess students, which is why they will take place next year, but it’s right that next summer’s arrangements take into account the disruption young people have faced over the past 18 months.”
Schools, colleges and pupils must know how they’ll be assessed by the return to school in September not weeks into the autumn term – Kate Green, shadow education secretary
Simon Lebus, Ofqual’s interim chief regulator said: “With things slowly returning to normal we are launching a consultation so that the flexibility we are building into qualifications will future-proof them against any public health crisis.
“And we want employers, colleges and universities to have the confidence in those qualifications to allow students to move to the next stage of their lives.
“We look forward to feedback on our plans from students, parents and teachers to ensure we understand their needs, particularly those whose education has been more harshly affected by the pandemic.”
Ofqual is also considering how best to grade qualifications in 2022 to be as fair as possible to that cohort, as well as to past and future students, and will announce a decision in autumn.
There is always a risk that any reforms will tilt the education playing field even further against disadvantaged pupils – Lee Elliot Major, University of Exeter
Kate Green MP, the shadow education secretary, criticised the length of time it would take for plans to be decided and queried the lack of proposals targeting those pupils who have missed the most school because of the pandemic:
“Time and again, the Conservatives have delayed action on exams creating two years of chaos and uncertainty. Schools, colleges and pupils must know how they’ll be assessed by the return to school in September, not weeks into the autumn term.”
Responding to the new consultation on exams in 2022, Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, also called for more support for the worst affected pupils: “We must ensure that we pass the fairness test for all pupils – that means not only treating students consistently across different year groups but also pupils from different backgrounds.
“There is always a risk that any reforms will tilt the education playing field even further against disadvantaged pupils, many of whom have suffered extra learning loss during the pandemic.”