Dear Parents & Carers
The debate around how exams will look in 2021 is drawing to a conclusion with some announcements this week on adjustments. The announcements all reaffirm the Government’s commitment to exams being the preferred method of assessment in England in 2021, which is a break from what Wales and Scotland are doing. Whilst the Secretary of State for Education is prone to U-turns and debacles, it would be prudent to assume these exams will go ahead and prepare accordingly.
The measures so far announced include:
- The start of exam season to be delayed by around 3 weeks to allow for more teaching.
- Some disclosure of which topics will be included in the papers to allow for more precise preparation. This will come at the end of January but clarity is still needed as to which subjects will share examined topics, how much of the papers’ content remains unseen, etc.
- The results will be pegged to 2020 outcomes – this is important as the whole system is always adjusted after marking to avoid ‘grade inflation’ (meaning grade boundaries change). The danger was that if it was pegged to 2019 outcomes, the grades achieved by this cohort will look poor compared to last year. By adjusting to 2020 outcomes the grades will be comparable.
- Generous marking, again yet to be clarified.
- Exam aids to be introduced, eg formula booklets to reduce the amount which students must remember.
- Backup exams in place for those who can’t sit due to forced absence.
- An expert group to monitor variation due to impact of Covid across the country.
The last point is an admission that there is yet to be a plan to account for the amount of forced absence endured by Years 11 and 13. Some possibilities have been discussed but no decision has been made and it is a very difficult question. Labour support regional adjustments to marking depending on disruption. This still seems unfair as a region may have limited disruption when measured together but individual schools within that region may have been affected more severely; I consider Myton one such school. A more personalised approach would seem fairer and I have expressed this opinion when I responded to questions posed by my union, ASCL. We will certainly let you know more when this becomes clearer.
Overall, these are significant adjustments to a normal exam season and we can include them in our own practice after January, when we get the details. As with all aspects of this pandemic, there is a great deal of disagreement on what should or should not happen, but I am determined to add my voice to those arguing for personalised adjustments due to forced absence, rather than a clunky regional or entirely national approach because there seems to be as much variation of impact between schools within a region as there is between regions. It is obviously something which has generated a lot of different opinions hence no decisions as yet.
With best wishes
Andy Perry – Head TeacherClick here to return to the current newsletter