Release date: 26/02/2021

The Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson MP, has written to the National Governance Association's (NGA) chief executive, Emma Knights with information about the alternative arrangements to the summer 2021 exam series.

The letter outlines the outcomes of the joint Ofqual and Department for Education (DfE) consultation which NGA responded to and stated what the education sector should expect next in preparation for these arrangements. The Secretary of State expressed his gratitude to NGA's engagement with the consultation.

An excerpt of the letter:

"I am writing to you to provide an update on the steps we are taking in response to the impact of the pandemic on awarding grades this academic year.

Students worked hard in preparation for their exams this year and teaching staff have made tremendous efforts to provide high quality remote education. But given the ongoing disruption to education caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we announced in January that GCSE, AS and A level exams will not go ahead this summer and that students taking GCSE, AS and A levels regulated by Ofqual should be awarded grades based on an assessment by their teachers. We also announced that exams for some vocational and technical qualifications and other general qualifications, which are used for progression to education or employment, may not be able to go ahead and would need to be awarded in a similar way to GCSEs, AS and A levels. We are placing our trust in teachers who work with students every day.

Ofqual and the department conducted a two-week consultation in January, seeking the views of teachers, students, parents and employers to provide a clear direction on the alternative arrangements for GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2021, and on the approach for vocational and technical qualifications and other general qualifications. We received a record number of responses, with over 100,000 in total from students, parents, teachers, school and college leaders and other stakeholders. There was widespread support for our approaches.

I am grateful for your formal responses to the consultation, which we have taken into account when developing our policy on alternative arrangements to exams this year.

I am also grateful for the extensive engagement from your organisations in recent meetings with the department and I hope that you will welcome the plans that DfE and Ofqual are putting in place. We have worked closely together to ensure that alternative arrangements to exams will give students the best possible chance to show what they know and can do and progress to the next stage of their lives fairly."

Read the full letter 

Sam Henson Director of Policy and Information at the National Governance Association said: "There was no easy solution for awarding grades in 2021, but what we really didn’t want was a desperate situation that led to the intense insecurity that the 2020 grades fiasco presented. Overall the approach that has been decided on for 2021 is one we can support given the absence of the usual exams process, and one that does present a fair route forward given the unparalleled circumstances. NGA welcomes the freedoms afforded to schools regarding the assessments they use which we hope will equip teachers with the confidence and tools they need to assess students fairly."  

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