From education to employment

MPs to debate petitions relating to exams during Covid-19

#ExamsCovidDebate – On Monday 12 October, MPs will debate two e-petitions relating to exams during Covid-19. Tonia Antoniazzi MP (Gower), member of the @HoCPetitions Committee, will be leading the debate.

Review the decision to use previous data to calculate exam grades

The petition (306773), which has over 148,880 signatures, states: “We want the Education Secretary and the Government to step in and review the exam board’s decision on how GCSE and A-Level grades will be calculated and awarded due to the current coronavirus crisis.

“We want a better solution than just using our previous data to be the basis of our grade.”

In response to the petition, the Government said: Students in England have now received the higher of their centre assessment grade or calculated grade for GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2020.

Following an announcement on 17 August, the great majority of GCSE, A and AS level students have now received the centre assessment grades that their schools and colleges had submitted for them. In the minority of cases where the grades that the exam boards had previously calculated for students were higher than the centre assessment grade, students have received their calculated grade.

Ofqual had consulted on and implemented a standardisation process for exam results this summer, but the system resulted in too many inconsistent and unfair outcomes for A and AS level students. It became clear that the approach resulted in too many anomalies to be resolved through appeals and which severely undermined confidence in the system.

Subsequently, Ofqual decided to award centre assessment grades, which are the grades which schools and colleges assessed students were most likely to have achieved had exams gone ahead. The Government supported this decision, which was deemed to be the fairest approach to avoid some students receiving grades that did not reflect their prior performance.

We understand this situation has caused a great deal of stress and uncertainty and apologise for the distress this has caused young people and their parents.

Reduce curriculum content for Year 10 and 12 students who will sit exams in 2021

The petition (320772), which has over 146,636 signatures, states: “A significant number of students will sit their final 2021 examinations. The outcome of which undoubtedly will be their passport, for many of their future life chances and successes.

“In order for this to be done fairly, it is imperative that the amount of content they are tested on is reduced.”

In response to the petition, the Government said: All students, including current Year 10s and 12s, will have experienced disruption to their education this year. Ofqual is consulting on measures to mitigate this through changes to next year’s exams.

We recognise that Year 10 and 12 students due to take exams next year, and their parents, carers and teachers, are concerned about the disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. The government is determined to do everything possible to ensure that no student is prevented from fulfilling their potential due to the pandemic.

We are planning on the basis that exams will go ahead in 2021 and have been working closely with Ofqual, the exam boards and groups representing teachers, schools, colleges and students to consider our approach to exams and other assessments next year. On 2 July, Ofqual published consultation proposals on a range of possible measures, with the overriding aim of ensuring that exams and assessments are as fair as possible. In particular, the consultation proposes a range of changes to exams and assessments next year to free up additional time for teaching, in light of the disruption experienced by teachers and students this year. This includes seeking views on a short delay to the exams timetable in 2021, and proposed adaptations in a number of subjects, for example, removing the requirement to record the spoken language assessment in GCSE English language, and allowing GCSE students to observe, rather than undertake, practical science work.

As with this year, the most important principle is that students due to sit exams and assessments in the next academic year should be enabled to progress successfully to the next stage of education or employment. Each of the elements of content that forms the foundation for GCSE, AS and A level qualifications is important, and therefore the government does not propose to change this content for 2021.

For GCSE history, ancient history and geography, the government has asked Ofqual to identify options for sampling less of the subject content for 2021 in a way which gives schools and colleges some choice over the content they teach, and helps teachers and students to cover that content in appropriate depth. This is because, unlike other subjects taken by large numbers of students, Ofqual was not able to identify any ways of freeing up teaching time without making changes to the way subject content is sampled. For GCSE history and ancient history, Ofqual is seeking views on proposals to introduce a choice of topics on which students would be required to answer questions in their exams, with one topic remaining mandatory. For GCSE geography, Ofqual is proposing that the content relating to fieldwork should not be assessed in 2021.

The government has confirmed that this approach should not be considered for GCSE English language, English literature, maths and the sciences, since the full content in these subjects is vital for progression to further study and students should have the opportunity, therefore, to cover the full syllabus. This approach should not be considered for AS/A levels either.

Ofqual’s consultation closes on 16 July. We recognise that students and teachers need to be reassured and informed about arrangements for exams and assessments next year, to help them to plan and prepare. Ofqual is aiming to announce its decisions by early August.

On 2 July, the government also published further guidance for schools and colleges that sets out what school and college leaders and their staff should consider in planning and delivering their curriculum next year, so that all students – particularly disadvantaged students – are given the support to make up for their lost time in education due to the pandemic. The government is clear that the school curriculum should remain broad and ambitious, and all students should continue to be taught a wide range of subjects, maintaining their choices for further study and employment.

The debate will last 90 minutes, and will provide opportunities for MPs to question Government Ministers directly on these issues. The debate will take place in Westminster Hall from 16:30, and will be available to view on Parliament TV:

Where in the country were these petitions signed?

The top 10 parliamentary constituencies that supported the petition ‘Review the decision to use previous data to calculate exam grades’ are as follows (as at 06 October 2020):



Signature Count

Chipping Barnet

Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP


Hornsey and Wood Green

Catherine West MP


Poplar and Limehouse

Apsana Begum MP


Bethnal Green and Bow

Rushanara Ali MP


West Ham

Ms Lyn Brown MP


East Ham

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP


Finchley and Golders Green

Mike Freer MP


Bristol West

Thangam Debbonaire MP


Brighton, Pavilion

Caroline Lucas MP


Islington North

Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP


The top 10 parliamentary constituencies that supported the petition ‘Reduce curriculum content for Year 10 and 12 students who will sit exams in 2021’ are as follows (as at 06 October 2020):



Signature Count

Ilford South

Sam Tarry MP



Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP


Poplar and Limehouse

Apsana Begum MP


Bradford West

Naz Shah MP


Ilford North

Wes Streeting MP


South East Cambridgeshire

Lucy Frazer MP


Epsom and Ewell

Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP



Adam Afriyie MP


Altrincham and Sale West

Sir Graham Brady MP


Feltham and Heston

Seema Malhotra MP


Petition details

  • Review the decision to use previous data to calculate exam grades – view on petition signature map.
  • Reduce curriculum content for Year 10 and 12 students who will sit exams in 2021 – view on petition signature map.

Follow the debate:

Petitions debates allow MPs from across the House to discuss the important issues raised by one or more petitions, and put their concerns to Government Ministers.

The Petitions Committee is set up by the House of Commons to look at e-petitions and public (paper) petitions. It can:

  • ask for more information in writing—from petitioners, the Government, or other relevant people or organisations
  • ask for more information in person—from petitioners, the Government, or other relevant people or organisations. This might be in Parliament or somewhere else in the UK
  • write to the Government or another public body to press for action on a petition
  • ask another parliamentary committee to look into the topic raised by a petition
  • put forward petitions for debate in the House of Commons

The Committee is currently made up of 11 backbench Members of Parliament from Government and Opposition parties. The number of seats each party has is calculated to reflect the membership of the House as a whole. The Chair of the Committee was elected on 29 January 2020.

The members of the Committee are:

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