GCSE and A-level exam students could face changes to non-exam assessments next year

GCSE and A-level exam students could face changes to non-exam assessments next year
Ofqual launches consultation on proposals for 2022

Coursework and fieldwork could be different for some GCSE and A-level students next year under proposals from England’s exam regulator.

Ofqual has put forward its plans for changes to non-exam assessment for students in light of disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, an official from the regulator said GCSE and A-level exams would still likely to be different in 2022 due to the “considerable” impact of coronavirus on learning.

It comes after exams have been cancelled for two years in a row due to the pandemic, which has kept most students in England at home during two national lockdowns.

Ofqual has now launched a two-week consultation on plans to alter non-exam assessment for students due to take their GCSE and A-level exams next summer to “take account of any public health restrictions” for Covid-19 that may be in place next year.

It comes after adaptations were announced for non-exam assessment in subjects this year – and the regulator is now proposing to carry forward the majority of changes for students taking exams next year.

The watchdog is proposing removing the mandatory requirement for geography, geology and environmental studies science students to undertake a prescribed number of days of fieldwork.

The suggested changes also include allowing greater flexibility in the evidence presented for design and technology and physical education qualifications.

Ofqual’s consultation focuses on the subjects for which preparation and work for coursework, practicals and fieldwork activities will be taking place this term for students taking their exams in summer 2022.

The consultation says: “The extent to which public health restrictions will continue, or might need to be reintroduced or strengthened, in the next academic year is not yet certain.

“However, some subject requirements, particularly those that require group activities or the use of specific pieces of equipment, could be more difficult for students to undertake and for teachers to supervise if restrictions such as social distancing continue.”

The watchdog said decisions on whether GCSE history and English literature students will be assessed on less content than usual will be considered as part of the wider policy decisions for the 2022 exams.

Paul Whiteman from the school leaders’ union NAHT said: “For assessment in 2022, it appears sensible to start from where we got to for 2021 following last year’s consultations when exams were planned to go ahead.

“The flexibilities and adaptations planned should definitely be in place for next year.

“However, the context for exams and assessments in 2022 has changed significantly; we now know the extent of the disruption to teaching and learning that students have experienced this academic year.

The union’s general secretary added: “Students taking exams and assessments in 2022 have faced two years of disruption and no-one can predict what will happen in the next 12 months.”

In March, Simon Lebus from Ofqual said the “current thinking” was that next year’s exams would see changes in light of the pandemic along the same lines of those planned for this year, before official exams were scrapped.

“That’s based on the reality of the cohort taking exams next year will have suffered considerable disruption to their learning,” he said.

Additional reporting by Press Association