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Government Confirms Plans for A Level and GCSE Assessments in 2021

Posted on 25 February 2021

The Department for Education (DfE) and Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon. Gavin Williamson CBE MP, confirmed plans today (25 February 2021) for this year's A Level and GCSE assessments. This follows the recent consultation in view of a second year of disruption to education caused by COVID-19. As anticipated, students will be awarded grades by their teachers and the DfE will not be reintroducing the controversial algorithm which caused so many issues for students, schools and colleges in 2020. The DfE and Ofqual received more than 100,000 responses to the recent consultation, with more than half of the responses submitted by pupils themselves.

Teachers will be able to use questions provided by exam boards as an optional way of assessing the level at which students are performing. They will also be able to draw from a range of evidence including mock exams, coursework or other work completed during the student's course.

Grades will need to be submitted by teachers to exam boards by 18 June 2021, with results day for both GCSEs and A Levels taking place in the week of 9 August, allowing more time for appeals, should they be necessary.

Detailed guidance on how to assess students is expected to be provided to schools and colleges by exam boards before the Easter break. Multiple checks are expected to be conducted to ensure consistency and fairness of grades, including random sampling by exam boards.

The DfE has confirmed that qualification results awarded this year using alternative assessment arrangements will not be used to create performance table measures at school or college level for use in accountability. More details on accountability arrangements for schools and colleges are expected shortly.

It has been a particularly difficult year for students who have missed out on normal education as a result of school closures, with some students suffering more than others due to lack of access to computers at home, difficulties in finding a quiet place to study, illness and, in some cases, bereavement. Today's announcement should provide some comfort to students who have been concerned by the uncertainty surrounding this year's assessment process. However, the plans will not compensate students for the loss of learning nor make up for the different experiences suffered by students over the last twelve months.

Looking to the future, it is not clear how students will be assessed in the years ahead given that A Level and GCSE results are normally moderated using exam results from previous years. The disruption to education over the last twelve months and to exam assessments for two consecutive years offers the DfE an opportunity to overhaul the current system. It remains to be seen whether that opportunity will be seized.

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