Exams 2022: Ofqual confirms ‘plan B’ details

Exams watchdog says schools and colleges should 'guard' against 'over-assessment' of students

Exams watchdog says schools and colleges should 'guard' against 'over-assessment' of students

Students must not be over-tested as schools and colleges gather evidence for the potential return of teacher-assessed grades in 2022, Ofqual has warned, as it confirmed contingency plans for next summer’s exams.

The government has said it plans to hold GCSE and A-level exams next summer. But Ofqual consulted on a plan B in case they need to be cancelled for the third year in a row.

If exams are cancelled, teacher-assessed grades would be used again next year. Schools and colleges have been asked to test pupils throughout the year and collect evidence in case the contingency plans are activated.

Today, Ofqual published its consultation response, along with guidance for schools and colleges on how to collect evidence. 

Here’s what you need to know…

1. ‘Guard’ against over-assessment

Ofqual said the total assessment time “should not normally exceed” the total time students would spend taking exams for a relevant qualification, “plus any time spent on non-exam assessment”.

Teachers should “guard against over-assessment”, the regulator said. Schools and colleges should also think about scheduling tests which would “provide evidence from broadly the same proportion of the specification as would normally be covered in exams”.

As set out in the original consultation, Ofqual said students should be assessed under exam-like conditions “wherever possible”.

2. Test students once a term

Ofqual chief regulator, Jo Saxton

Ofqual said teachers should consider the balance of exam and non-exam assessments when deciding how many times students should be tested. 

A “sensible approach” would be to test students once a term. Ofqual believes that for many schools and colleges, these tests will likely already be planned.

Assessing pupils early would mean that if the pandemic disrupts education later in the academic year, there will be “some evidence” that TAGs can be based on.

3. Assess on ‘wide range of content’ 

Students should be assessed on a “wide range of content”, similar to what they would expect in their summer exams, Ofqual said. 

But in deciding how to phase the tests throughout the year, teachers should “bear in mind” that if TAGs are used, “they will be based only on content that students have been taught”. 

If a student was absent when a particular topic was taught, and that topic is covered by an assessment, schools and colleges don’t need to change the test to accommodate them.

4. Tests should be ‘similar’ to past papers

Ofqual said that in order to make the tests “as useful as possible” for students, they should be “similar” to the exam papers they are preparing to take next summer. 

Past papers could be used, in full or part, where appropriate. 

The same reasonable adjustments that would be made for a disabled student taking summer exams should also be applied to the assessments “where possible”.

5. Inform students of TAG tests

Where tests are planned following the publication of this guidance, students “must be told” before each assessment whether the results will be used as part of TAGs evidence. 

Students should be told “sufficiently far in advance” to allow them to revise and prepare. 

They should be told which parts of the subject content will be covered in the test. But they should not be told the questions in advance, or “be able to predict the questions from the information given to them”. 

Students should be provided with feedback, which could include marks or comments. 

6. Students should not re-sit assessments

Students should not be given the opportunity to repeat a test, for example, to “improve their mark in response to feedback”. 

But Ofqual accepted that performance in later assessments “might, of course, reflect feedback on their performance in earlier assessments”.

7. Disrupted schools and colleges should still collect evidence

Where “significant” disruption to education means tests cannot be completed for all or some students, schools and colleges “should take reasonable steps to collect evidence of each student’s knowledge and understanding in ways that align as far as possible with this guidance”. 

Schools and colleges will need to be “assured” that the evidence collected is “of the student’s work alone” and “covers a broad range of the subject content and assessment objectives”. 

Schools and colleges should also record the “exceptional reasons” why this has happened.

However, schools and colleges are not expected to “deviate” from the guidance for “minor disruptions” to a student’s education. 

8. No decision on appeals or quality assurance

In the original consultation, quality assurance and appeals processes appeared to be largely similar to the 2021 process. 

But Ofqual said it was not making decisions on these “at this time”. On appeals, the watchdog said it would “wish to learn” from the appeals arrangements this year.

But if exams are cancelled they would “take decisions quickly”.

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