Robin Walker – 2022 Comments on GCSEs and A-Levels in 2022

The comments made by Robin Walker, the Minister of State for School Standards, at the Education Committee meeting on 15 March 2022.

It is very important that GCSE and A-level examinations do go ahead this year. I will be meeting Ofqual later today for ongoing work, and to talk about how we support those students and how we make sure that this series of examinations can go ahead effectively and with the right support in place.

In terms of the adaptions, you will be aware that grades will be based around the mid-point between 2021 and pre-pandemic grades for GCSEs and some A levels, with results therefore likely to be higher than pre-pandemic, providing a safety net for some of this year’s students.

The package of measures, along with the exams, includes four elements: a choice of topics or content on which pupils will be assessed in English literature, history, ancient history and geography; in all other GCSEs and A levels that have exams, advance information about the focus of the content of the exams, which was published on 7 February; changes to some assessment requirements for practical assessments in some subjects to take account of public health measures that were in place; and allowing students to have access to support materials in the exam room for maths, combined science and physics.

Combined with the choice of content and the other measures, another thing that I think is important in the context of people still possibly suffering from Covid absence is spacing exams. Where we have multiple exams in the same subjects, we are having a 10-day space in between them to make sure that pupils have the best opportunity of being able to sit them.

We think that package will mean that we can go ahead with the exams and that we can do so in a fair way. Since taking on this job, many of the conversations that I have had with teachers have been very clear about the downsides of the teacher-assessed grades process. It is something that people recognise was necessary at the time we had it, during the height of the pandemic, but many teachers are very keen to move away from it to something that is independently assessed. That is something that will be welcomed by the system more generally. I think it sets us on a path to restoring independently assessed exams as the best way forward for most people.