GCSE and A-Level pupils will be given a choice of topics and advance information in order to “maximise fairness”. According to the Department for Education (DfE) the decision was influenced by the learning disruption caused by Covid.
After a consultation that amassed over 6,000 responses, the decision is that for GCSE English literature, history and ancient history, students will be given a choice of topics, whereas there will be a choice of content for GCSE geography. As for the rest of the GCSE, AS and A-level subjects, advance information will be given in the spring. Furthermore, support materials including formulae sheets will be provided for maths, physics, and combined science exams.
Over 90% of students and parents were in favour of pupils being given advance information for exams, and approximately 80% agreed with offering topic choices. Unions have suggested that advance information should be provided earlier than the spring to help teachers prepare their students more effectively.
Meanwhile, Ofqual have set out a grading strategy due to the fact that a higher proportion of students have received top grades over the last couple of years in comparison to the years prior to the pandemic. It is estimated that students will most likely receive higher grades in 2022 than pre-pandemic. As a result, exams boards will set grade boundaries that reflect a “midway point between 2021 and 2019”. The usual grading profile is expected to return by 2023.
The Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi stated that fairness was at the heart of the approach: “the measures we’re putting in place will help reduce the impact of the significant disruption this group of young people have had to face – allowing them to move onto the next stage of their lives.”
However, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, pointed out that the new plans will not “allay the anxiety or answer the questions” that many teachers have. “Only giving advanced information about the exams in time for revision will result in a ‘topic lottery’ where some students will have happened to have covered the topics on the exam in sufficient depth and others may well have not.” On the other hand, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he welcomed the “sensible set of measures”.
Credit: Andy Hayes at Sky News