Students taking A-levels and GCSEs in England will be asked to take repeated practice exams, after the exam regulator Ofqual has asked schools to test students throughout the year in case national exams would be canceled for the third time.
The regulator has published its long-delayed contingency plan, detailing how teachers in England are to assign grades by assessment in the event of a Covid disruption making it impossible to hold formal exams, as was the case in 2020-2021 and 2019 -20.
But the new plan B, endorsed by the education ministry, has been criticized by teachers’ unions and school leaders for being published long after the start of the school year, and for creating a heavier workload. for teachers and students who need to prepare for assessments as well as final exams.
The contingency plan includes advice for schools to collect evidence to assess grades, with Ofqual saying that a “smart approach” would be for schools to hold formal exams once per term, starting before the school break. Christmas this year, and followed by others in the spring and in the first half of the summer term.
Ofqual also advised students to be assessed under formal exam-like conditions whenever possible, without knowing the questions in advance or having access to grades or textbooks.
But the regulator also cautioned against “over-assessing”, saying “total assessment time should not normally exceed the total time students would spend taking exams for the qualification concerned, plus any time spent. to the non-examination assessment “.
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “These plans involve students having to take a series of mock exams, which may or may not count towards their final grades, as well as possibly having to pass. official exams next summer. This is far from ideal and it puts them under pressure.
“But not having a contingency plan would risk repeating the chaos of the past two years, and so overall that seems like the right course of action and the confirmed package of measures seems to be quite reasonable.”
McCulloch and Mary Bousted, deputy general secretary of the National Teachers Union, strongly criticized the delay in finalizing and publishing the emergency plan.
“The lack of urgency is a shame and an affront to parents, students and their teachers – who all needed to know, much earlier than today, how they would be assessed if the exam system fell, as he did it last year and last year before, ”Bousted said.
In 2020, the government refused to create a contingency plan, leading to immediate confusion when the A-level, GCSE, and other national exams were subsequently canceled in January of this year.