GCSE and A-Level exams will return to pre-Covid rules from next year, Ofqual has said. Pictured: Dr Jo Saxton, the chief regulator of Ofqual
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GCSE and A-Level exams to return to pre-Covid rules next year as Ofqual says it intends to scrap measures put in place to help pupils during the pandemic

  • Decision means students will now be asked questions from across curriculum
  • Students were allowed this year to choose their topics in a number of subjects
  • But Ofqual confirms ‘return to full subject content coverage for those subjects’
  • Adjustments to coursework and science practicals will also not apply next year

GCSE and A-Level exams will return to pre-Covid rules from next year after Ofqual said it intends to scrap measures that were put in place to help pupils during the pandemic.

The decision by the exam regulator means that GCSE students will now be asked questions from across the curriculum, as opposed to choosing their topics in a number of subjects.

To take into account the chaos caused by the pandemic, it said there should be a choice of topics in GCSE English literature, history and ancient history and a choice of content in GCSE geography for pupils this year.

But Ofqual has now confirmed ‘the return to full subject content coverage for those GCSE subjects’ for next year.

Adjustments to coursework, science practicals and fieldwork in place for this year will also no longer apply for the 2022/23 academic year. 

In guidance published today, Ofqual said it will ‘continue to monitor’ the impact of the pandemic and that it would evaluate the mitigations used to help pupils this year.

GCSE and A-Level exams will return to pre-Covid rules from next year, Ofqual has said. Pictured: Dr Jo Saxton, the chief regulator of Ofqual

GCSE and A-Level exams will return to pre-Covid rules from next year, Ofqual has said. Pictured: Dr Jo Saxton, the chief regulator of Ofqual

The decision by the exam regulator means that GCSE students will now be asked questions from across the curriculum, as opposed to choosing their topics in a number of subjects

The decision by the exam regulator means that GCSE students will now be asked questions from across the curriculum, as opposed to choosing their topics in a number of subjects

This includes measures such as formulae sheets and advance information about exam paper topics for revision – before it finalises plans for 2023.

The guidance said: ‘Our intention is to return to the carefully designed and well-established pre-pandemic assessment arrangements as quickly as possible, given they are the best and fairest way of assessing what students know and can do.’

Ofqual added that it would consider its approach to grading in 2023 ‘in light of outcomes in 2022’.

The 2022 grades will on average fall between grading standards from 2019, before the pandemic, and those last year when teacher-assessed grades were awarded following the cancellation of public exams.

Ofqual also says it will look at the exam timetable for 2023, in light of what happens in 2022, to see if the spacing of ten days between GCSE and A level papers should be kept

The measure was initially put in place to avoid pupils who tested positive for Covid not having to miss multiple exams.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the announcement allowed schools to plan teaching for next year. 

But he said he is ‘concerned’ about the decision to remove choices of topics and content in some GCSE subjects in 2023, which would mitigate the disruption caused by Covid to pupils’ learning.

Geoff Barton (pictured), general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said it would have made more sense to keep the mitigations in place

Geoff Barton (pictured), general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said it would have made more sense to keep the mitigations in place

He added: ‘The students who will take their GCSEs next year have been heavily impacted by the pandemic and it is likely that Covid will continue to cause periods of absence between now and summer 2023.

‘It would surely have made more sense to keep this mitigation in place.’

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said the decision to scrap mitigations for 2023 was ‘unsurprising’ given the Government’s ‘overall policy of “living with Covid”‘.

He said the fact the decision had been announced in advance of the 2022 academic year, ‘unlike for the past three summers’, would give teachers ‘some certainty’.

But he added that pupils sitting exams in summer 2023 were not ‘unaffected by the pandemic’.

Mr Courtney continued: ‘It is right that the Department for Education and Ofqual have not ruled out the options of implementing other mitigations later in the year, but it is again disappointing that advanced information about exam topics is only seen as a revision tool.

‘If pandemic disruption is such that it impacts on teaching and learning time, as was the case this year, then advanced information only in time for revision and not to help with the lost teaching and learning, is far less useful.’

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