Teacher assessments won’t be used, instead 2021 exams will be delayed by 3 weeks

Teacher assessments won’t be used, instead 2021 exams will be delayed by 3 weeks

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson has announced next year’s GCSE and A-level exams will be going ahead – but with some changes. Firstly, content will be reduced for some subjects and secondly, exams will be pushed back by three weeks to give students more time to prepare and make up for lost learning.

 The government has rejected calls made by unions and leading figures in Education to cancel exams and instead use teacher assessment grades.

Usually exams start around the middle of May, they will now start from 7 June. Some exams – such as one maths and one English GCSE paper – will be scheduled for before May half-term. This will give students

Normally results are handed out a week apart, however they’ll not be given out in the same week; A-level results day will be August 24 and GCSE results day will be August 27.

Vocational qualifications like BTECs are also expected to be delay in-line with this changed timetable.

Gavin Williamson said more back-up plans would be decided later for “all scenarios.” The Department of Education plans to publish more details “later in the autumn”, in order to “ensure students have confidence that they will be fairly treated in terms of assessment in 2021”.

This year’s summer exams were cancelled due to the pandemic - leading to chaos for students whose marks were downgraded by an algorithm. The government was forced to make a humiliating u-turn and allow students to keep their teacher-predicted grades following a public outcry.

“Fairest Way”

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Exams are the fairest way of judging a student’s performance so they will go ahead, underpinned by contingency measures developed in partnership with the sector."

“Students have experienced considerable disruption and it’s right we give them, and their teachers, the certainty that exams will go ahead and more time to prepare.”

gavin williamson school background
“I will continue to work closely with stakeholders and I’m grateful for the commitment and willingness that’s been shown in delivering this additional time to ensure young people have the best opportunity to succeed.”

He added: “Combined with our £1bn catch-up programme and the changes proposed by Ofqual to free up teaching time, the changes I am announcing today give young people the best chance of being ready for their exams without undermining the value of the qualifications they receive."


“Unrealistic and Unfair”

Last week, education unions warned moving the timing of exams back slightly was unlikely to make any significant difference following the vast gulf in learning experiences between pupils.

secondary students studying in class

Dr Mary Bousted, of the National Education Union, said it was "unrealistic and unfair" after the disruption to their schooling.

She said: “Today’s announcement is yet another appalling example of political ideology trumping practical reality.” "It demonstrates that this is not a government which is interested in levelling up because the impact of these decisions will impact most severely on the most disadvantaged."

She has called for a broader range of topics in exams to give students a fairer chance.

She added: "If government will not reconsider and change its mind quickly, members tell us that exams, even with greater optionality, are no longer tenable.” "In which case, the only route to fairness would be a complete cancellation of exams and the use of robustly moderated, externally quality-assured teacher judgements.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL school leadership union, said he was “dismayed” by the announcement, and said delaying the start if exams would be “of marginal benefit when compared to the loss of learning from the national lockdown and ongoing disruption”.

“It has taken the government an eternity to reach a very inadequate response to the scale of the challenge which lies ahead for students who are taking GCSEs and A-levels next year.”

Paul Whiteman, the leader of the NAHT, added: “Having started this discussion in July, it is disappointing it has taken this long to get to this point when there are so many more decisions to be made.”

Labour’s shadow education secretary, Kate Green welcomed the delay to next year’s exams, but said it should have been announced earlier.

“The government have finally listened to Labour’s call for exams to be delayed,” she said, “but they could have done this weeks ago to give schools more time to prepare.”