Association of Colleges (AoC_info) responds to the news from @Education that A Levels and GCSEs will be delayed by three weeks in 2021
We welcome the commitment to running exams next year as the plan A and believe that, in the main, students prefer to sit exams and carry out assessments in order to achieve their qualifications.
Two major issues arise from this plan:
1. Supporting students who have lost learning due to the pandemic and also digital poverty
The first is how the system supports students who have lost learning because of the pandemic. The extra three weeks of teaching time will help, as will the catch-up package which college students can benefit from. But it is not enough, particularly given the digital poverty that too many students suffer from.
We would urge DfE to continue to discuss and address this throughout the academic year as we begin to appreciate the impact on students.
2. Contingency plans are critical
The second issue is there is a risk that some or all students will not be able to sit the exams – whether that be individual students too ill to sit exams, whole classes, institutions shut down, or regions in lockdown. Contingency plans for these scenarios are critical and we will continue our discussions with DfE and Ofqual to help agree them.
One plan could include the development of a national system of external written assessment and teacher assessment as a fallback option. Others plans need to focus on how adjustments can be made to ensure that the process is as fair as possible to all students.
The Autumn Exam Series
Colleges still have the autumn series to contend with and many are expecting higher numbers of GCSE English and maths resit candidates in November. Many colleges will have over 500 candidates and some have seen their November entries more than double.
This increase in numbers is costly, disruptive and could have serious public health implications. At the very least, DfE should extend the support funding promised for the additional autumn exams to cover the additional costs for college GCSE resits.
Ensure technical and vocational students can complete courses in summer 2021
Today’s announcement only covers academic subjects. DfE, Ofqual and awarding organisations need to work with colleges and other providers to ensure technical and vocational students can complete courses in summer 2021 – this is of course a bigger challenge because assessment is more sophisticated and often work-based.
Clarity on the adaptations to be put in place for many qualifications is urgently needed by students and colleges.
David Hughes, AoC, Chief Executive