On Thursday 2 July Ofqual published its consultation on proposals designed to support students taking GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2021, alongside its initial plans for other general, vocational and technical qualifications. The consultation is open until Thursday 16 July, with final decisions announced in August. We would encourage our clients to engage with the consultation as feedback from schools on the practicalities will be important.
Its key themes are:
Adaptations to free up teaching time
Allowing coverage of the full curriculum content and relieving pressure on students. In limited subjects, it may be possible to allow teachers some choice in the topics they teach. Ofsted are discussing with subject associations how they might be able to support teachers in making these modifications.
Adaptations to allow for future public health safeguards
This includes changes to performance rules in dance and drama, and permitting design and technology students to watch teachers demonstrate the use of machinery, rather than use the machinery themselves.
Sampling of subject content
No change to the content which forms the foundation for GCSE, AS and A level qualifications is proposed. The use of content sampling in question papers and increasing the use of optional questions is being considered. However, this will not apply to GCSE English language, English literature, maths and the sciences, or AS/ A level.
Changes to the exam timetable
Exam boards are being asked to consider a later start to the timetable to allow more time for teaching - in particular, whether GCSE exams could start after half term, on 7 June 2021. Whether this would also be appropriate for the AS/A level exam timetable, and the impact of any delay in issuing results, is also being consulted on.
Vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs)
Following feedback from its engagement with the sector, Ofqual has set out the guiding principles which will determine its approach. This is in recognition that those taking VTQs have also experienced lost teaching time and appropriate arrangements need to be put in place to mitigate the impact of this disruption. Any mitigations will need to account for the complexity of the VTQ landscape, and the different ways in which the qualifications are used.