Normal GCSE and A-level exams won't return until 2023 as full plans unveiled

Ofqual revealed how next spring’s tests will take place after coronavirus-fuelled disruption to education

GCSE and A-level exams are due to return next year

Normal exams for GCSE, A-level and AS-level pupils will not return until 2023, the Government announced today.

Special “adaptations” will be in place next spring for students sitting tests in England, according to watchdog Ofqual.

A “fair and measured grading” system is aimed at ensuring kids whose education was disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic are not put at a disadvantage.

Exams were axed for two years running because of the Covid-19, with teachers assessing pupils’ marks, fuelling grade inflation.

Changes include a choice of topics in some GCSE exams like English literature and history; advance information on the focus of exams to help students revise in some subjects; and “support materials like formulae sheets” in maths – aiding children’s workings out.

Exams will take place next spring, the regulator has confirmed

Grade boundaries set by exam boards will “reflect a midway point between 2021 and 2019 – so that more students get higher grades in 2022 than before the pandemic”.

Ofqual added: “This approach will provide a safety net for this year’s students as well as a step back to normality, with results expected to return to the usual grade profile by 2023.”

The move is aimed at preventing another marking fiasco like the scandal which hit students getting A-level results in summer 2020.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “We’ve put fairness at the heart of our approach and listened to pupils, teachers and parents.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi


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“The measures we’re putting in place will help reduce the impact of the significant disruption this group of young people have had to face – allowing them to move onto the next stage of their lives.

“We are committed to rigorous standards being fairly applied, and exams are the fairest way to assess students, which is why they will take place next year.”

The Department for Education insisted its “firm intention” was for exams to go ahead next year – but also revealed “proposals for Teacher Assessed Grades as a contingency measure if exams cannot go ahead, in the event that the course or impact of the pandemic changes”.

Ofqual chief regulator Jo Saxton said: “The interests of learners are central to Ofqual’s mandate; for us that means fairness, it means qualifications that stand the test of time, that employers, colleges and universities can trust.

Gavin Williamson was sacked as Education Secretary in this month’s Cabinet reshuffle


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“Our grading approach will recognise the disruption experienced by students taking exams in 2022.

“It will provide a safety net for those who might otherwise just miss out on a higher grade, while taking a step back to normal.”

National Association of Headteachers general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “We welcome the clarity for school leaders, teachers and students which comes from the decisions announced today, although it would have been far preferable to have this before the start of the autumn term.

“These changes and adaptations should help to mitigate the impacts of the disruption that students have experienced.”

National Association of Headteachers chief Paul Whiteman



He added: “Whatever decision was made about the approach to grading in 2022, it would be open to criticism by some.

“The most important thing is that this decision has been made and everyone involved now knows what to expect.”

Association of School and College Leaders boss Geoff Barton said: “We are pleased that schools, colleges, and students at last have clarity about exam adaptations and grading standards for 2022, as well as proposals for contingency arrangements in the event that exams cannot take place next summer.

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton


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“It is a sensible set of measures which should ensure that students are assessed as fairly as possible for A-levels, GCSEs and other important qualifications following the huge educational disruption caused by the pandemic.

“This should all have been sorted and announced much earlier.

“It is frustrating that it has taken to this point – deep into the autumn term and with ongoing Covid-related disruption in schools and colleges – to set out the shape of exams for which young people are studying.”

AS and A-level results will be announced on August 18 and GCSE grades a week later.


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