Lord Wandsworth Leaderboard

2021 Exams: What Has Changed?

The Scottish government announced this week that there will be no National 5 exams in 2021. The Education Secretary John Swinney has said that going ahead with all exams during the ongoing pandemic would be “too big a risk.”

National 5 qualifications, which are broadly speaking the Scottish equivalent to GCSEs, account for about half of all exams sat in Scotland.

Instead of examinations, the qualifications will be judged on “teacher judgement supported by assessment.”

This early decision has been well received by many, saying that this provides teachers and students with forewarning. This allows for continuous assessment throughout the year, rather than risking a last minute decision closer to the normal exam time, which could result in problems similar to those seen this summer.

The examinations for Highers and Advanced Highers will go ahead, but the exams will begin two weeks later than planned, on May 13th. Removing National 5 exams from the equation means there will be more time and space for Highers and Advanced Highers so that these exams can take place in normal exam conditions as much as possible. The two week delay also allows for extra teaching and learning to take place.

Meanwhile, next Monday MPs in England will debate whether the content of GCSE and A level exams should be reduced, since students have missed out on a substantial amount of learning due to the pandemic. This comes after a petition was signed by more than 140,000 people, saying that pupils should not be penalised for missing out on face to face teaching since March.

In July the government responded to this petition, stating that “Ofqual is consulting  on measures to mitigate [disruption to education] through changes to next year’s exams.”

Debating the question next week allows MPs to directly question government ministers on plans for GCSEs and A levels in 2021 over the course of the ninety-minute debate.

So far there has been no large scale call for GCSE exams to be canceled in England in the same way that National 5s have been in Scotland - but the debate may result in some changes to how GCSEs and A levels will be organised and assessed in 2021.

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