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GCSE 2022 – plans and contingency plans announced

For the latest on Advanced Information for GCSE, A Level and other qualifications see our post.

Ofqual has announced the arrangements for the summer 2022 exams. And also the plans that it is putting in place in case GCSE and A Level exams are cancelled.

Exams will be taking place next year. It’s something that government is keen to point out whenever the subject of 2022 exams comes up. However, accepting that you can’t control everything, they have today (11/11/2021) outlined the steps that they would take in the unlikely event that exams don’t take place.

In short, Teacher Assessed Grades would apply.

Same as 2021, but different

Having been through this before last year, centres are being asked to start collecting evidence before any cancellation notice is made. Regardless, in fact, of whether the exams are cancelled or now.

Last year was all about teachers determining a grade and providing evidence to support that. Centres went through incredible processes to ensure that the system was in place and working. It was a huge onus on teachers and support staff. It is also horribly inconsistent, even with exam boards trying to ensure a level of consistency. The approach this year is an attempt to even that out, by being much more prescriptive about what constitutes evidence.

Non-exam assessments & Coursework

If your course has an element of non-exam assessment – like art, dance, food tech, and similar – then these should take place as normal. These would form part of the TAG in the proportions set out by the exam board.

Exam-like conditions (Mock exams)

Ofqual is especially keen to carry out exam conditioned tests to support TAGs. Part of their guidance suggests that mock exams could run in:

  • the second half of winter term
  • spring term
  • first half of summer term

This sounds illustrative – but schools will need to explain alternative plans to exam boards.

This is a key difference to last year, where mocks were not explicitly or exclusively required as part of the assessment process. The reason that Ofqual are suggesting such early assessments is in case Covid were to prevent the later ones from going ahead.

Based on taught content

It would be foolish to set past papers covering a whole specification at the end of autumn, there is no way that students will have completed their courses. So teachers should only set questions in these mocks on content that students have been taught. These can come from a range of sources, but it is also important to cover a wide range. Not, for example, 3 rounds of Biology Paper 1.

Given the disruptions over the last months, this could vary wildly from one school to another. While it is clearly unfair to judge all schools against the same benchmark, that is exactly what will happen in the preferred event of exams taking place.

And, as with the real exams, teachers should inform pupils will topic areas will come up in the test – not letting them know what the actual questions will be. Students can’t resit a particular mock exam either. This would clearly be an unfair situation.

Telling students

The guidance states that students must be told where an assessment is likely to inform a TAG decision. Given that the first proposed assessment is in the autumn term, that what they mean by sufficient advance notice might be a little vague.

What does it all mean for students in practice?

Ofqual doesn’t want to create a process that detracts from next years exams. After all that is still firmly ‘Plan A’. However, is clearly means that students really need to be on top of their revision from this moment on. There shouldn’t be nasty surprises about the content in the mocks but, at the same time, there is still the rest of the curriculum to go through. This means that schools will not be able to simply provide revision sessions, or allow study time. This is a bit of a double whammy. And, let’s not forget that there could be three mocks in year 11, whereas previous years may have only had one or two.

The answer? Start now. Build a list of the topics covered to date and ensure that levels of confidence are high. Teachers will manage the gaps. So students can really focus on going back over their lessons and making sure that the foundations are solid.

We have a template that you can freely download and a free Maths and English Study Summary too.

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