What are the 2021 contingency plans for exams?


Pupils taking exams in 2021 will benefit from similarly generous grades to those awarded this summer, as part of a range of supportive measures unveiled by the government.

Formula sheets will also be supplied in certain subjects, while pupils will be given advance notice of topics in others and be able to take contingency papers if they are unable to participate in exams.

There is also the prospect of using teacher validated grades in extreme circumstances where pupils are unable to sit any exam papers.

While the government plans provide some clarity for teachers and pupils across England, a solution to overcome differences in the amount of learning lost by region is yet to be unveiled.

Instead, the government has asked a selection of experts to present proposals, which may be revealed when further information is given on the plans in the new year.

‘Exceptional steps’ to support pupils

Each subject is expected to be graded as generously as in 2020 in a bid to ensure that pupils are not disadvantaged; a proposal put forward by Ofqual and now backed by the Department for Education.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said, “exceptional steps” have been taken to ensure that exams are as fair as possible following “unprecedented disruption” to learning.

“I am determined to support students, parents and teachers in these unprecedented times and hope measures like more generous grading and advance notice of some topic areas will give young people the clarity and confidence they need to achieve every success,” he said.

An outline of the measures

The advance notice for GCSE, AS and A Levels topics will be provided by the end of January 2021, although the Education Policy Institute has urged the government to present the content as early as possible in the month.

Meanwhile, Ofqual and the various exam boards are set to look at what is feasible for each subject when it comes to formula sheets and additional learning materials.

Where pupils miss exams due to sickness or being in self-isolation, they may still receive a grade if they have completed a proportion of the necessary qualifications.

Those that miss multiple assessments will be given the chance to sit contingency papers, while teacher assessments will only be used “once all chances to sit an exam have passed”.

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