The exams regulator Ofqual has finally revealed its plans for replacing exams this summer.

Two consultation documents have gone live this afternoon: one for GCSEs and A-levels; and one for vocational and technical qualifications including BTECs and functional skills.

Both have a two week deadline for submissions of 29 January 2021.


GCSEs and A-levels

For GCSEs and A-levels, the consultation document proposes that students’ grades in each subject “will be based on their teachers’ assessment of the standard at which the student is performing”.

Final assessments will be made “towards the end of the academic year, at about the time students would have taken their exams”.

Ofqual has also said that to help teachers make “objective decisions”, it is proposing that exam boards provide “guidance and training”, and make available sets of papers for teachers to use with with students “as part of their assessment”.

The consultation is seeking views on “whether such papers should be provided and, if so, what form they should take”.

One question being considered is whether the papers could use materials from past papers. The consultation also asks when the papers should be made available and whether their use should be mandated.

The use of such papers “would support consistency within and between schools and colleges”, Ofqual said.

“The teacher, through the marking of the papers, could consider the evidence of the student’s work and use that to inform their assessment of the grade deserved. The exam boards could also sample teachers’ marking as part of the external quality assurance arrangements and to seek to ensure this was comparable across different types of school and college, wherever students are studying. The use of exam board papers could also help with appeals.”

Ofqual is also proposing that teachers should draw on a “range of broader evidence of a student’s work in making their final assessment”, and that all students should be able to appeal their grades.

Under the proposed plan, students would be assessed by their teachers in a period beginning in May into early June. Teachers would then submit grades to the exam boards by the middle of June.

External quality assurance by the exam boards would be “ongoing” throughout June and results would be issued to students once that process is complete – most likely in early July. Students could then appeal immediately following the issue of results, and appeals would first be considered by schools and colleges.


Vocational and technical qualifications

Ofqual says that where practical exams and assessments which are “required to demonstrate occupational competence for employment and apprenticeships” should “continue to take place throughout the academic year where they can be delivered in line with public health guidelines, including remotely”.

Where these assessment cannot be delivered safely, they should be delayed.

The consultation then states that VTQs which received calculated results in summer 2020 should “fall in scope” of the proposed policy for replacing GCSE and A-level exams this summer.

Under Ofqual’s existing regulatory arrangements – The Extended Extraordinary Regulatory Framework (Extended ERF) which it introduced in October 2020 – awarding organisations have the flexibility to adapt their assessments and qualifications to mitigate against the disruption the pandemic has caused.

Ofqual is now proposing to issue a revised version of the Extended ERF. This would allow awarding organisations to “continue to offer adapted assessments for those qualifications in scope, and award qualifications where exams have not taken place and learners have not been able to complete all other assessments”.

The consultation document suggests that calculated results could be used where assessments cannot be sat, including for functional skills. FE Week is seeking clarity from Ofqual on this point.


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  1. Richard Sellek

    As teachers we were rigorous and fair last year and will be the same. We know our students and are constantly assessing them. We have struggled valiantly through lock downs one and two to keep teaching and learning and assessment going.

    I am using the structure of my exam paper to set regular tests and have made sure that portfolio’s are completed.

    I do not feel that the additional workload and stress associated with creating additional materials will be useful.

    • I completely agree, as a student studying Alevels in biology, chemistry and maths I already feel the pressure with the immense amount of content that is expected of all Alevel students and this rack only be throughly covered with time and preparation. There has neither been the time or preparation for students to work at their best. We are stressed. We are NOT robots!. Teachers, like yourself, are under constant pressure to try and rapidly complete the course because the government has failed to give use any sense of direction in our learning. This has an adverse affect on us as pupils who then feel the pressure that weighs on teachers shoulders. It would be unfair to go back and sit “mini exams” that we have had to valiantly keep up with online. Teachers know our abilities, NOT the government!.

  2. Peter Watkin

    The government discussion of an examination plan for A levels seems to focus exclusively on school examinations. However I was planning to sit for an A level independently, as an adult student. Are our requirements to be totally disregarded? Surely it should still be possible for me to sit this examination?