Nadhim Zahawi – 2021 Statement on Qualifications and Assessments

The statement made by Nadhim Zahawi, the Secretary of State for Education, in the House of Commons on 18 October 2021.

My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for the School System) at the Department for Education (Baroness Barran), made the following written statement on 11 October 2021:

In April, the Department for Education committed to our intention that exams and assessments would go ahead in 2022. On 12 July, recognising that students taking exams in 2022 have had considerable disruption to their education, Ofqual and the Department published joint consultations outlining detailed proposals for:

changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A-levels in 2022; and arrangements for vocational and technical and other general qualifications in academic year 2021-22.

The Department and Ofqual confirmed the permitted scope of adaptations for vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) included in performance tables, Functional Skills Qualifications and T-levels in an announcement on 6 August following analysis of responses to the VTQ consultation. Depending on the purpose of the qualification, a range of adaptations for VTQs and other general qualifications have been or will be used including, but not limited to:

a reduction in the number of internal assessments, while ensuring all content is taught

longer and there are more assessment windows;

social distancing adaptations—for example, professional discussion in place of certain practical activities;

greater flexibility in invigilation rules—for example, to allow subject teachers to invigilate their own subject.

On 30 September, the Department and Ofqual published the decision document outlining the decisions taken by the Department and Ofqual following analysis of responses to the consultation on changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A-levels in 2022.

The Department and Ofqual engaged with a wide range of sector representatives during the consultation period. The proposals that were set out in the consultation received a high degree of support and we have therefore confirmed a package of measures that includes four elements:

a choice of topics in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history, and choice of topic or content in GCSE geography;

the provision of advance information on exams in those subjects at GCSE, AS and A-level where there is no choice of content;

changes to the requirements for the delivery of practical activities in science subjects, and assessment in art and design;

the provision of support materials in the exam in GCSE maths, physics and combined science.

We have confirmed that DfE’s policy intention is for advance information to be published by exam boards in early February 2022 to support student revision. The Government retain the flexibility to deploy advance information at an earlier point if there is significant further disruption to education.

The changes for both general and vocational and technical qualifications will be for one year only.

Ofqual also set out its approach to grading for general qualifications, confirming that 2022 will be a transition year to reflect that we are in a pandemic recovery period and students taking exams in 2022 have experienced disruption to their education. Ofqual set out its plans for grading to be based around a profile that reflects a mid-point between 2021 and 2019 grades in 2022. In 2023, Ofqual plans to return to results that are in line with those in pre-pandemic years.

While it is our firm intention that exams will go ahead next year, supported by the permitted adaptations, we understand that contingency arrangements are also needed in the unlikely event that exams cannot go ahead fairly or safely. The Department and Ofqual plan for teacher assessed grades to be used in the event that exams cannot take place, and we have jointly launched a consultation on improvements to the 2021 process for GCSE, AS and A-levels and confirmed the contingency arrangements that will apply to vocational and technical qualifications. The consultation closes on 13 October and we will announce final decisions as soon as possible.

Finally, we have confirmed that in 2022 results days will return to their normal timing, on 18 August for AS/A-level and 25 August for GCSEs. Vocational and technical qualifications used to progress in a similar way to GCSEs and A-levels will be awarded on or before the same days, and other VTQ results will continue to be awarded throughout the year.