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Government announces headline changes for 2021 GCSE and A-Level exams.

The Governement has announced steps to improve fairness for next year’s exam students, with detail to follow.

Today (3 December 2020) the Department for Education has announced a number of measures that it sees as addressing the issues of fairness and disruption for England’s students taking GCSEs and A-Level exams. It comes after months of uncertainty and moves by Scotland and Wales and Scotland to cancel some or all exams.

What will be different?

Those measures include:

  • more generous grading than usual. This is planned to be in line with national outcomes from 2020 so students this year are not disadvantaged
  • students receiving advance notice of some topic areas covered in GCSE, AS and A levels to focus revision
  • exam aids – like formula sheets – provided in some exams giving students more confidence and reducing the amount of information they need to memorise
  • additional exams; giving students a second chance to sit a paper if the main exams or assessments are missed due to illness or self-isolation

The Government maintains that exams are “the best way of giving young people the opportunity to show what they can do which is why it’s so important they take place next summer.”

It is really important to note that this is the headline but we are still missing detail:

  • Which subjects will give advance notice of the topics?
  • Will some fact sheets include open texts for English Literature?
  • How will disadvantaged pupils (due to interruption) be normalised?

Should they revise over the Christmas break?

While addressing the imbalance amongst pupils taking exams this year is clearly right, there is still a fair amount that we are waiting for. The government has promised those details in the new year. This is less than ideal.

It is particularly galling that the announcement should be made without the detail. Until then, Students are in a kind of limbo. Imagine revising topics over the break that they later find out won’t be in the exam.

However, as always, students who are better prepared will be better off. Of course, it would be frustrating to learn an area that isn’t in the test. But it is far more advantageous to follow the rigour and discipline of continuing to study. This will not only keep them in the habit but it will also improve their confidence.


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