DfE and Ofqual launch consultation on qualifications

Students, parents and teachers invited to give views on proposals for next year’s GCSEs, AS and A levels and vocational and technical qualifications 

The Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual have today launched consultations on proposed arrangements for exams and vocational and technical assessments in 2022.

The proposed changes to GCSEs, AS and A levels in summer 2022, along with vocational and technical qualifications in academic year 2021-22, are designed to “mitigate the disruption to students’ education” caused by Covid-19, says the DfE.

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
  • Providing advance information of the focus of exam content, to help students focus their revision
  • 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 GCSE, AS and A level 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, which enabled awarding organisations to streamline assessments, providing revision guidance, and change invigilation practices (including the introduction of remote invigilation and remote assessment). Assessments would commence early in the autumn term.

The consultation on vocational and technical qualifications will close on 26 July and plans are expected to be confirmed 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 – shadow education secretary Kate Green

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, Labour’s 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.

“The Conservatives’ proposals include nothing on levelling the playing field for pupils who’ve missed most school, while their “feeble” catch-up plan will leave 11 out of 12 school pupils without any support next year.

“Ministers have again demanded school and college staff to work into the holiday all while they’re managing the end of the school year and getting preparations in place to keep kids in school come September. Ministers cannot continue to pass the buck but must set out comprehensive plans which match Labour’s ambition for our children’s futures.”

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.”


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