Nick Gibb – 2021 Statement on Education Update

The statement made by Nick Gibb, the Minister for School Standards, in the House of Commons on 12 July 2021.

Today, Ofqual and the Department for Education published joint consultations outlining detailed proposals for alternative arrangements for awarding general qualifications in 2022 and vocational and technical qualifications in academic year 2021-22.

These consultations, outlined in “Proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2022” and “Arrangements for the assessment and awarding of Vocational and Technical Qualifications and Other General Qualifications in 2021 to 2022”, will end on 1 August for GCSEs, AS and A levels and on 26 July for vocational and technical and other general qualifications. These changes will be for one year only.

The Government have made clear its intention that exams and other assessments should go ahead in the academic year 2021-22. In order to ensure that they can go ahead fairly, however, we must recognise that students in the 2021-22 cohort have experienced significant disruption to their education, and we are proposing that exams and assessments in 2021-22 should be adapted to take this into account.

For GCSEs, AS and A levels we are proposing a package of measures that includes four elements: in those GCSE subjects where it is possible to do so without undermining the assessment, a choice of topics on which students will be assessed; advance information about how exams will be focused for the majority of GCSE, AS and A level subjects; reducing the burden of non-exam assessment in some subjects; and allowing students to have access to support materials in the exam room in a small number of subjects.

For vocational and technical qualifications and other general qualifications, the consultation sets out a suite of proposed measures for those qualifications that are included in performance tables including adaptions such as streamlining assessment, early banking of assessments and providing revision guidance. The consultation focuses on the impact of the measures proposed and updating the existing vocational and technical qualifications contingency regulatory framework to reflect our aim that exams and assessments should go ahead in 2021-22.

The consultation seeks the views of students, parents and carers, teachers, school and college leaders, FE colleges and universities, employers and others before decisions are made on final arrangements. We intend to announce decisions for GCSEs, AS and A levels early in the autumn term and for vocational and technical qualifications and other general qualifications in early August.

As well as these proposed adaptations, Ofqual is considering how best to grade qualifications in 2022 in a way that is as fair as possible to students in that year, those who took qualifications in previous years, and those who will take them in future. Ofqual has statutory responsibility for the maintenance of standards and for public confidence in qualifications, while taking account of Government policy. Ofqual will make a decision once 2021 results are known, and will announce its decisions in the autumn.

We are also continuing to work with Ofqual on contingency plans in case it does not prove possible for exams to go ahead safely and fairly in 2021-22.