League tables will not include 2021 exam results

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Test and exam results will not be included in performance tables for this year, the Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed.

Instead, they will be replaced by “attendance information and student destinations” as well as details of and the subjects taken at key stage 4 and 5.

It comes as the DfE has revealed more details about the measures it will put in place to support examinations next summer. These include:

  • More generous grading than usual, with exam outcomes to be in line with national outcomes from the 2020 grading.
  • Students will receive advance notice of some topic areas covered in GCSE, AS and A levels to help them to focus their revision.
  • There will be exam aids, such as formula sheets, provided in some exams in a bid to “give students more confidence and reduce the amount of information they need to memorise”.
  • There will be additional exams to give students a “second chance to sit a paper” if the main exams or assessments are missed due to illness or self-isolation.

These measures come on top of the planned three-week delay to next summer’s exams that the DfE confirmed in October.

The DfE says that students taking vocational and technical qualifications will also see adaptations to “ensure parity between general and vocational qualifications”. Some vocational qualifications will require more varied adaptations due to the different qualification types, it adds.

In a statement on Thursday (December 3), the DfE also confirmed that an expert group is to be set up to look at “differential learning and monitor the variation in the impact of the pandemic on students across the country”.

The DfE says that it has also developed “a series of contingency measures with Ofqual” to ensure that if students miss one or more exams due to self-isolation or sickness but have still completed a proportion of their qualification they will still receive a grade.

The DfE’s statement added: “If a student misses all their assessments in a subject, they will have the opportunity to sit a contingency paper held shortly after the main exams. In the extreme case where a student has a legitimate reason to miss all their papers, then a validated teacher informed assessment can be used, only once all chances to sit an exam have passed.”

More details on this process and on adaptations to exams will come in the new year, the DfE says.

The government has also announced that full, graded Ofsted inspections will not resume until the summer term. More details here.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Exams are the best way of giving young people the opportunity to show what they can do which is why it’s so important they take place next summer.

“But this isn’t business as usual. I know students are facing unprecedented disruption to their learning. That’s why exams will be different next year, taking exceptional steps to ensure they are as fair as possible.

“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.”

The news comes as the DfE has also reviewed its remote education guidance and is to set out updated expectations “to provide further clarity for schools, colleges, parents and pupils”.

Primary schools will now be expected to provide a minimum of three hours a day on average of remote education, with secondary schools expected to provide at least four hours’ worth.

Commenting on the announcements, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This solution to next year’s A level and GCSE exams will make them as fair as they can be in the circumstances. It is not perfect. Nothing can be given the fact that learning has been so disrupted by coronavirus and that pupils have been affected to vastly different extents.

“But various options have been discussed exhaustively, and, frankly, schools and colleges just need a decision. The uncertainty has gone on for much too long and they need to be able to get on with the job of preparing their pupils for these important exams.

“Advance notice of exam topics, and exam aids like formula sheets, will help pupils know where to focus their energies in the time that remains before exams take place. Together with making grades more generous and the planned contingency arrangements, this represents a reasonable package of measures to mitigate the damaging impact on learning of the pandemic.

“We had argued for more optionality in exam papers, by which we mean giving pupils more choice over the topics on which they can answer questions. We suggested this solution in order to address the fact that some students will have experienced much more disruption than others, and may not have covered all topics in sufficient depth. However, we have been told it would be prohibitively difficult to design exam papers in this way. We accept that decision, and we will now focus on doing everything possible to make the chosen approach a success.”


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