Six Months Lost, Three Weeks Gained

We have lift off as GCSE and A-Level exams will go ahead but pushed back by 3 weeks.

Monday 7th June 2021 will be a date pencilled into the diary of many teenagers notebooks this year, it is the date when GCSE and A-Level exams will start, three weeks later than planned. However, the department said one English and one Maths GCSE exam will still take place before May half term “to help manage potential disruption”, along with some A-level exams in subjects with “typically low” student numbers. This despite the decision in Scotland to abolish the examinations altogether for 2021.

The Government also announced that “no further subject-level changes to exams and assessments will be made for GCSEs, AS and A-levels” beyond what was set out by Ofqual in August”. Whilst Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “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”.

“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.”

Gavin Wiliamson,

So what does this mean for thousands of teenagers across the country? Well it is certainly is a long time coming and quite frankly an inadequate response whilst students have been waiting patiently to find out there fate, however we finally have some idea that there will be an exam schedule and that students ought now be preparing to sit their exams next summer. There will however be some changes to the exams themselves and students and teachers need to be aware of these.

According to the Department for Education

Changes include:

changes to how content is assessed in GCSE geography, history and ancient history, to help teachers and students cover that content in appropriate depth, as we proposed in our consultation

changes to GCSE English literature, to introduce a choice of topics on which students are required to answer questions in their exams. The government, which is responsible for content, has decided to allow for this change in light of the responses to the consultation. As this subject is taken by the majority of students, and typically taught alongside English language, this will ease the pressure on many students and teachers

changes to the requirement for a specified number of days of fieldwork in a number of subjects. Teachers widely welcomed our proposed changes to the requirement to carry out GCSE geography fieldwork, while noting the importance of fieldwork to the subject. A number of respondents argued strongly for a similar adjustment to be made to AS and A level geography, because of the potential obstacles they foresee for students undertaking fieldwork during the next academic year. As such, we have decided to align the approach in A level geography to that of GCSE, although A level students will still have to undertake an individual investigation. We have also confirmed similar decisions for GCSE, AS and A level geology; AS and A level environmental science; and modified the arrangements for observation in GCSE astronomy

changes to how the assessment of students’ spoken language skills is reported in modern foreign language GCSEs – students’ speaking skills will be assessed through a teacher endorsement alongside the 9 to 1 grade. Common assessment criteria will be produced for teachers to use when assessing students’ spoken language skills, so that these can be assessed within teaching, giving centres some flexibility over how they approach the oral component of the assessment

a range of modifications to the non-exam assessment arrangements in a number of subjects to accommodate potential public health requirements, for example, GCSE food preparation and nutrition, GCSE, AS and A level music and GCSE physical education

All well and good but there are still some unchartered waters ahead, and a Plan B is still six weeks away according to many commentators. Even with the new three tiered levels, we are faced with the real prospect of another lockdown in large swathes if not the whole country, although I suspect shutting schools again will be the very last resort. Gavin Williamson had quite rightly decided that there should not be any further culling of exam content, but that does cause pressures in the system, especially if students are unable to go to school if either they are off themselves or their school is in lockdown.

Overall there is an opportunity here to start discussing whether a single one off exam is still the fairest way to judge a students ability and whether there is any scope in a complete review of the examination process. One for another blog perhaps.

Here at Castle Tutoring we are able to support students through the catch up of a wide range of subjects including History, Geography, Economics, Business Studies, English, Maths, PE and Biology and help prepare for those all important public examinations.

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