Williamson looking at adaptions for 2022 exams to ensure ‘right level of support’ for students

The government is looking at a “similar set of measures” for the 2022 exams as those proposed for this summer’s series before formal tests were cancelled, Gavin Williamson has said.

The education secretary told the education select committee this morning that they “very much hope and intend” for exams and vocational and technical qualifications to go ahead next year.

Last December, ministers proposed that grades 2021 exams would be as generous as those in 2020, and that students would get advance notice of topics in certain subjects and be allowed to use exam aids. But the measures were ditched in January when exams were cancelled.

Simon Lebus, Ofqual’s interim chief regulator, revealed in March that government was considering adaptations “along the line that had been originally contemplated for this year”.

Simon Lebus

Today, Williamson confirmed the government was considering such measures.

Asked what plans government have in place for exams next year, he said: “We are considering what we need to do to ensure that there’s fairness and there’s the right level of support for pupils as they take these qualifications. I think that’s the right approach.

“We had quite an extensive package of measures that was intended for this years’ awarding session and supporting youngsters as they took their exams and we will look at having a similar set of measures that can be brought forward in order to be able to support pupils as they take assessments.”

Caroline Johnson MP asked: “Do you expect adjustment to be a requirement next year, or the year after, or the year after that?”

Williamson responded said he “very much expects there to be adjustments and mitigations to be put in place, because I think those youngsters that are in year 10 and year 12 will have obviously suffered disruption as a result of the pandemic, so I think that you don’t have a situation of immediately switching back to the absolute same state of situation as it was in 2019”.

‘I never want to see children not taking exams’

But the sector is still waiting for full proposals for the 2022 exam series to be published, with just weeks left until the end of the academic year.

Williamson would only say at the Festival of Education last week that plans would be published “very shortly”, and said Parliament would be informed first.

He said today: “I never want to see children not taking exams, I would probably have been so bold if I was talking to you in December last year to say absolutely children would have been sitting exams, never recognising the fact there would be a new variant but that it absolutely our aim and intention but with proper contingency plans always in place.”

This year, government faced criticism for not having an “off-the-shelf” plan B ready.

Williamson also said today that he is expecting exam boards to deliver a rebate to schools and colleges this year.

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