The government’s policy is that GCSE and A/AS level exams will go ahead in 2021/22, with adaptations to take account of the disruption to education that students have experienced. These include providing a choice of topics or content in some GCSE subjects, advance information on the focus of the content of exams to support students’ revision, and support materials in some GCSE exams. These adaptations, along with our support for education recovery, public health measures and the approach to grading that Ofqual has announced, will help to ensure exams can proceed safely and fairly next summer.
However, there remains a small risk that further disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic will mean it is not possible for exams to go ahead safely or fairly. On 30 September the Department for Education and Ofqual therefore set out our intention to use Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) for GCSES, AS and A levels in 2022 in the unlikely event that it proves necessary to cancel exams, and published a joint consultation.
The consultation outlined proposals on how teachers should collect evidence over the rest of this academic year to support the awarding of TAGs, if necessary, including arrangements for private candidates. The consultation also sought views on improvements to the 2021 arrangements for quality assurance and appeals.
On 11 November, the department and Ofqual published the decisions taken following analysis of the responses to the consultation.
The proposals that were set out in the consultation received broad support and Ofqual have now published guidance for schools, colleges and other exam centres on collecting evidence that would be used to assess students’ performance if exams were cancelled. The guidance takes a proportionate approach and is being published now so that teachers know how to collect evidence from their students in advance of any decision to cancel exams. Ofqual have confirmed that, where possible, centres should use their existing assessment plans.
Ofqual will only publish guidance on how to determine TAGs, and centres would only be required to develop policies for awarding TAGs, if exams are cancelled.
Ofqual have also confirmed that they will not take decisions at this point about the quality assurance arrangements that would be used for TAGs in 2022, or how student appeals would work. These are both dependent on the timing of any decision to cancel exams and the reason for that decision, including any public health restrictions in place at the time.
If it proves necessary to cancel exams in some parts of England, exams will be cancelled for all students and the TAGs approach will be implemented nationally.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords