How will exams be replaced in 2021? Government sets out latest expectations

Friday 15 January 

The Department for Education and Ofqual have now officially launched a 2-week consultation – open to parents, students and anyone working in education – so you can have your say. We have read the 45-page document, and outlined the 16 key areas and 74 questions it contains on our latest blog: Have Your Say on Exams 2021: Official Government Survey Now Open.


Wednesday 13 January 
It’s been all go for Gav today. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has had a busy morning as, firstly, he set out expectations for how exams will be replaced in 2021, and then took questions from the Education Select Committee on Covid testing, school closures and parents reporting schools to Ofsted 

Headlines on how pupils will be assessed in 2021 

Grades issued “as late as possible"
Williamson said it is “vital we maximise the remaining opportunity for them to be taught for as long as possible, so they have every opportunity to catch up." So grades will be issued by schools as late as possible. 

Cancelled tests may mean.... tests!
The Education Secretary has also asked the exams regulator Ofqual to explore the “possibility of providing externally set tasks or papers, in order that teachers can draw on this resource to support their assessments of students”. So some external setting may be included in the plan so grading is not all on the teachers. 

Results will look different to previous years 
Ofqual had pledged that results would be as generous as those issued last year. However the new plan seems to have changed that.

100% no algorithm 
There will be no algorithm to standardise grades. Instead, Williamson wants schools and colleges to undertake quality assurance of their teachers’ assessments and “provide reassurance to the exam boards”.

Grade changes to be the exception 
"Changes should only be made if those grades cannot be justified, rather than as a result of marginal differences of opinion.”

Appeals will be possible
Consultation will “explore fully” the appeals route for student who doesn’t believe their grade reflects the standard of their work.

Same-same approach for International Baccalaureate
Unlike last year, the International Baccalaureate, should have a similar approach to GCSEs and A-levels.


Vocational tests
External exams scheduled for the next few  months should go ahead with protective measures in place to protect staff and pupils but Williamson has said that there will need to be “alternative arrangements to examined assessments” where they are set for a vocational qualification. 


Headlines from today's Schools Q&A:

• Covid testing
• School closures
• Parents telling tales to Ofsted

The Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Department for Education (DfE) Permanent Secretary Susan Acland-Hood took questions from the Education Select Committee this morning (Wednesday January 12) and here are the key points discussed. 

Mass testing for pupils 
Williamson says he wants to see mass testing rolled out "across all education settings". He says staff testing in primary schools will be rolled out from next Monday. Williamson says he doesn't think it would be "right or appropriate" to ask school staff to administer testing of pupils in primary schools. Says they're looking at a system where the testing is carried out by parents on their child. 

Acland-Hood says the DfE is also working with Public Health England on how to introduce testing of primary school pupils, which would also be done at home. 


Vaccination roll-out for teachers 
Williamson says it's "understandably right" government is prioritising those most at risk, but in next wave, "I see the top priority is for all those who work in schools". More detail on staff testing in primary schools - Williamson says they will be tests that staff can self-administer at home

Homeschool provision provided by school – reporting to Ofsted “last resort”
Williamson says if parents have issues with provision "we would always ask them to talk to their teacher first and then headteacher”. If that doesn't work, "there has to be some form of recourse and the ultimate last course of recourse would always be Ofsted" 

Williamson reiterates that parents shouldn't be going to Ofsted in the first instance. Approaching them should be a last resort. 

Williamson is asked about remote education and action that will be taken if schools aren't "stepping up". He says there's been a "massive step shift" in the offer provided by schools since March last year.

Children falling behind
Williamson is asked about vulnerable children in danger of falling behind. He says there's a much higher level of attendance of pupils with social workers than in the first lockdown, but attendance is still too low, and government will work with Local Authorities. 

Where are the promised laptops? 
On laptops, Williamson claims all schools will have received "their full estimated allocation" by the end of this week, but says he recognises some schools won't have enough, which is why DfE has ordered more. 

National Free School Meals Voucher Scheme – late but coming
Williamson is asked why the national free school meals voucher scheme isn't being launched until almost two weeks after partial closures were enacted. He says DfE will cover costs of food parcels/local vouchers provided in the meantime


92% of teachers want Williamson to quit. Will he? 
When asked about a recent poll which showed 92% of teachers want him to quit. Williamson says he just wants to do everything he can to support schools, and says decisions he's had to make "I wouldn't wish upon you, upon anyone".

Watch the full Q&A on YouTube