Proposals set out for exams and assessments in 2022

Exams next year are set to recognise and mitigate the disruption to students’ education, under proposals on arrangements for 2022 launched today (12 July).

The department and Ofqual are seeking views from students, parents and teachers on proposed arrangements for GCSEs, AS and A levels in summer 2022, along with vocational and technical qualifications in academic year 2021-22.

The suggested arrangements for GCSEs, AS and A levels include choices about the topics students will be assessed on for some subjects, and giving schools and colleges advance information about the focus of content of the exams for other subjects.

Exams are the best and fairest form of assessment, but the disruption caused by the pandemic meant it would not have been fair to young people for exams to take place this summer. Instead, teachers have determined young people’s grades, using a range of evidence to assess their performance. Detailed guidance and training has been provided to support schools, and a series of checks have been put in place to make sure grades reflect students’ abilities.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

This year we have rightly asked those who know students best – their teachers – to determine young people’s grades. While I know the wait for results can be an anxious one, students and their families can look forward to receiving results next month in the knowledge that they will reflect young people’s hard work and enable them to progress to their next stage.

Exams will always be the fairest way to assess students, which is why they will take place next year, but it’s right that next summer’s arrangements take into account the disruption young people have faced over the past 18 months.

The proposed arrangements to assessments come alongside the government’s ambitious package of measures to support students’ education recovery, backed by over £3 billion, including tutoring, summer schools and mental health support, as well as further training and development for teachers.

The consultation proposes a range of measures to help mitigate the impact of disruption to students’ education, focussing on the following areas:

  • Giving schools and colleges some choice about the topics or content their students will be assessed in GCSE English literature, history, ancient history and geography;
  • Providing advance information of the focus of exam content, to help students focus their revision;
  • Giving students a formulae sheet in GCSE mathematics and an expanded equations sheet in GCSE physics and combined science;
  • Changing requirements for practical science work and practical art and design assessments.

Ofqual and the department are also running a consultation on arrangements for vocational, technical and other general qualifications (VTQs). This builds on the 2021 arrangements, which enabled awarding organisations to put in place adaptations such as streamlining assessments, providing revision guidance, and making changes to invigilation, including the introduction of remote invigilation and remote assessment. Plans for VTQs in 2021/22 are intended to be confirmed to enable assessments to commence early in the autumn term.

Since March 2020 awarding organisations offering VTQs have adapted qualifications where appropriate and are now well placed to take these adaptations into the next academic year. Ofqual is proposing minimal changes to the VTQ arrangements, and is consulting on the impact of the move away from teacher assessed grades and on minor updates to regulations to take account of current circumstances.

Simon Lebus, Ofqual Interim Chief Regulator, said:

With things slowly returning to normal we are launching a consultation so that the flexibility we are building into qualifications will future-proof them against any public health crisis.

And we want employers, colleges and universities to have the confidence in those qualifications to allow students to move to the next stage of their lives.

We look forward to feedback on our plans from students, parents and teachers to ensure we understand their needs, particularly those whose education has been more harshly affected by the pandemic.

Plans for summer 2022 GCSE, AS and A level exams are expected to be confirmed early in the coming autumn term. Ofqual is also considering how best to grade qualifications in 2022 to be as fair as possible to that cohort, as well as to past and future students, and will announce a decision in autumn.

While the Government intends for exams to go ahead in 2022, it will continue to work with Ofqual on contingency plans in the event that it is not possible for exams to go ahead fairly and safely in 2022. These arrangements will not be necessary for exams in 2023.

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