The JCQ and exam boards have been speaking with Government and regulators over recent weeks about how we can collectively ensure that students can take GCE AS, A Level and GCSE exams next summer and have confidence in the grades awarded.
We recognise the difficult decisions the Department for Education (DfE) is facing and we are committed to working actively and doing everything we possibly can to meet the challenging timescales announced by them for exams and results days in 2021. Moving the exam timetable will provide additional time for teaching that will support schools and students through this difficult time.
JCQ and the exam boards have been listening carefully to the concerns of stakeholders about all aspects of next summer’s exams. In the context of the exam timetable, we have been carefully considering three issues related to the disruption faced by students, schools and colleges over recent months:
- The timing of summer 2021 exams and results
- The potential for some students to be unable to sit their exams next summer
- The availability of examiners to mark next summer’s exam papers
A full exam series will always be the fairest way of assessing every student’s ability. However, we recognise that many students have lost out on a significant amount of teaching time and we have an opportunity to help schools and colleges recover some of that lost learning through the timing and delivery of the exam series.
Any change brings challenges and risks, and we have carefully weighed these in our conversations and highlighted where we have concerns, especially around the timing of GCSE results. We are also working with Ofqual and DfE on other contingencies to ensure, where they are put in place, they are manageable for all stakeholders.
Dr Philip Wright, director general at JCQ, said: “JCQ and the exam boards will do everything we can to help deliver a successful exam series in 2021. We will work with and need the support of DfE and Ofqual and stakeholders on three fronts:
- To support student health and well-being;
- To support schools and colleges who may face administrative and capacity challenges; and
- To recruit many thousands of additional examiners, whose commitment and dedication will be crucial. The vast majority of examiners will need to be working teachers and be available into the early summer holidays.
‘We welcome the Education Secretary’s request that Ofqual work with him, schools and further education leaders, unions and the higher education sector to develop these arrangements. They will need time, energy and resources from all those involved in the examination system to deliver these timescales successfully.
‘It’s important to recognise that this approach requires trade-offs. So a significant delay to the start of exams without significantly delaying results means that exams will have to take place in a compressed window, rather than being spread out to maximise a student’s chances of sitting at least one paper per subject.
‘Even with a compressed exam window, delivering GCSE results on 27th August will be a challenge. We’ve raised our concerns with Ofqual and the DfE and agreed regular reviews to see whether good progress is being made to overcome the challenges.’
Dr Wright continues: ‘JCQ and the exam boards will provide our full support, while continuing to review developments and stand ready to make recommendations for change if we think they are in the best interests of students, schools and colleges.
‘We will be consulting with stakeholders on our proposed timetable and will do so shortly. Any changes to the schedule will need to be kept within the dates specified by the Secretary of State and Ofqual.’
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