Extra measures ‘to ensure fair exams next summer’

Education: Primary / Thu 3rd Dec 2020 at 07:10am

EXTRA measures to “boost fairness and support students” will be used for next summer’s GCSE and A-level exams in England, ministers have announced reports the BBC.

More generous grading, advance notice of exam topics and additional papers are promised by the Department for Education to make up for the disruption faced by students during the pandemic.

Those who cannot sit exams due to isolation rules will get their grades.
Heads said it was “a reasonable package” of measures for the situation.

The DfE says it has had “extensive engagement” with exams watchdog Ofqual, exam boards and senior leaders across the education sector.

The measures mean:
more generous grading than usual, in line with results from summer 2020, so that this year’s cohort is not disadvantaged
students getting advance notice – at the end of January – of some topic areas covered in exams to focus revision
exam aids – such as formula sheets – provided in some exams to cut down on the memorising required
additional “backup” exams – to be held in July – to give students a second chance to sit a paper if they have to miss main exams or assessments due to illness or self-isolation
and a new expert group, which will monitor variation in the impact of the pandemic on students across the country

In extreme cases, where a student misses all their papers, a teacher-assessed grade will be given.

Those young people taking vocational and technical qualifications will also see adaptations to their exams to ensure fairness.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said exams were the best way of measuring performance, and that it was “so important” they took place next summer.

“But this isn’t business as usual. I know students are facing unprecedented disruption to their learning. 

“That’s why exams will be different next year, taking exceptional steps to ensure they are as fair as possible.”

Mr Williamson said he hoped the measures would “give young people the clarity and confidence they need to achieve every success”.

In primary schools, Year 6 national tests, known as Sats, will go ahead “to assist with pupils’ transition to secondary schools” and teacher assessment in English reading, writing and mathematics at Key Stage 1 will remain.

But the Key Stage 1 tests in reading and maths, and the grammar, punctuation, and spelling tests at Key Stage 1 and 2 will be cancelled for this academic year.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the measures were “a reasonable package” to mitigate the damaging impact of the pandemic and made exams “as fair as they can be in the circumstances”.

Mr Barton said notice of exam topics and exam aids would “help pupils know where to focus their energies in the time that remains” before exams take place.

“It is not perfect – nothing can be given the fact that learning has been so disrupted by coronavirus and that pupils have been affected to vastly different extents.

“But various options have been discussed exhaustively, and, frankly, schools and colleges just need a decision – the uncertainty has gone on for much too long.”

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