Ahead of the UK national lockdown announced on 4th January 2021 the Government confirmed that "it is not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer as normal” due to the disruption caused to education by the Covid-19 pandemic.
On the 15th January 2021 the Department for Education published a consultation requesting the views of students, parents, teachers and school leaders as to how grades should be awarded to those students due to sit examinations this summer. Over 100,000 responses were received and a detailed analysis of the responses received has been published.
On 25th February 2021 the Secretary of State for Education announced the alternative arrangements, as set out by Ofqual, for determining GCSE, AS and A Level grades for students who were due to sit examinations in the Summer 2021 series.
We have summarised the key detail below:
How will GCSE, AS and A Level examinations be assessed in Summer 2021?
How will grades be determined?
Students’ grades will be based on teachers’ assessment. Teachers have been encouraged to, “use a broad range of evidence across the taught content to determine the grades before submitting the grades to the exam boards.” Although yet to be confirmed by the exam boards, evidence is likely to include:
independent work (e.g. essays)
internal assessments (e.g. mock tests)
non examination assessment (e.g. coursework)
Exam boards will also be providing teachers with “support packages” including assessments and mark schemes as well as advice on how to determine grades. Importantly, these assessments are optional and are viewed as “part of the range of evidence teachers could use to determine grades.”
What will students be assessed on, in terms of content?
Student’s will only be assessed on the content they have been taught. Teachers will be required to determine the level at which each student is performing and grades “should reflect what a student knows, understands and can do.”
Will grades be moderated by exam boards?
Schools will be required to perform internal quality assurance to ensure their process for allocating grades is fair and consistent. Exam boards will also perform external quality assurance by randomly sampling the evidence used to inform grades by schools.
When will grades need to be submitted to exam boards by schools?
There is no fixed date as of yet, but Ofqual have confirmed that, “teachers should determine the grades as late in the academic year as is practicable, and not confined to a defined window, to enable teaching to continue for as long as possible.”
When will examination results be published?
Results days have been brought forward slightly and will be as follows:
AS and A Levels: 10th August 2021
GCSE: 12th August 2021
Will students be able to appeal grades?
Yes! The following process will be in place if a student is unhappy with their grade:
Ask their exam centre (school) to check if an administrative or procedural error has been made. If an error has been made centres can submit a revised grade complete with evidence for the change for the exam board to consider.
If a centre does not think there has been an error made, a student can appeal to the exam board via their exam centre. The centre would need to provide the evidence base for the grades awarded which would be reviewed by the exam board. If the exam board determines the grade awarded by the centre should be changed on the basis of the evidence provided, they will do so.
How will International GCSEs (IGCSEs) and International AS and A Levels examinations be assessed in 2021?
IGCSEs and International AS and A Levels are set independently of Ofqual by the following exam boards: Cambridge Assessment, Edexcel & Oxford AQA. Since IGCSEs and International AS and A Levels are sat in countries worldwide the three exam boards have taken slightly different approaches to assessing the impact of Covid-19 on the Summer 2021 examination series.
If you are studying at a UK school all exam boards have cancelled examinations and are using teacher assessment to determine grades. Please see details below of each exam boards’ announcement to UK schools:
Cambridge Assessment: “Our update today confirms that for a very small number of countries and regions within countries where directives from national and local authorities mean exams cannot go ahead, we will switch from exams to a teacher assessment approach using student work. We have informed schools in those countries separately today.” (Link)
Edexcel: “We will use a robust approach based on teacher assessment for International GCSE and International AS/A Level assessment in May/June 2021 and exams will not go ahead as planned.” (Link)
Oxford AQA: "I am writing to you to announce the cancellation of the May/June 2021 exams, and confirm that OxfordAQA students will receive Teacher Assessed Grades, in line with students in England.” (Link)
Please do check the exam board websites for updates on how grades will be awarded using teacher assessment.
Although Edexcel and Oxford AQA have cancelled IGCSEs and International A Levels worldwide, Cambridge Assessment have stated that exams will go ahead in June 2021 in countries where they are allowed and it is safe to do so. Thus, if you are based outside of the UK and are studying for a Cambridge Assessment IGCSE or International AS or A Level we would recommend that you check with your school as to whether you will be required to sit exams in June 2021.
How will IB exams be assessed in 2021?
The International Baccalaureate has confirmed that it will be offering a dual route for those schools preparing students for the May 2021 examination session in both Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme.
“The IB is working with schools to determine which of the two pathways is best for their region: written examinations, where they can be administered safely, or an alternative route using a combination of internal assessment coursework and teacher-predicted grades, where they can’t.”
To find out which route has been deemed best for your school to take we would encourage you to speak to your school’s IB coordinator.
How will 13+ Common Entrance exams be assessed in 2021?
The Common Entrance exams at 13+ (sat by students in Year 8 for Year 9 entry) is set by The Independent Schools Examinations Board (“ISEB”). The ISEB have not yet confirmed whether Summer 2021 exams will go ahead as normal.
It is also worth noting that not all independent senior schools require students to sit the Common Entrance at 13+ for Year 9 entry and that those that do may provide further updates as to their expectations of Year 8 applicants in light of the UK national lockdown announced on 4th January 2021.