Exam grade boundaries should be lowered due to pandemic, Ofqual says

GCSE and A-Level exam grade boundaries should be lowered next year to compensate for effects of the pandemic, Ofqual says

  • Ofqual is urging Government to ensure that exams are ‘less daunting’ in 2021 
  • Chief regulator Dame Glenys Stacey has written letter to Education Secretary 
  • Argues that pandemic is impacting learning so exams should be more lenient

A-level and GCSE grade boundaries should be lowered next year to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, the exams regulator has said.

Dame Glenys Stacey, acting chief regulator of Ofqual, said the assessments ought to be made ‘less daunting’ because the coronavirus was making teaching harder.

In a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, Dame Glenys said there was ‘an opportunity to recognise, and to compensate for the baleful impact of the pandemic for all students qualifying in 2021 (and possibly beyond), by setting national performance standards more generously than in normal times.’

Dame Glenys, who took over after Sally Collier stepped down over the summer results fiasco, said: ‘In all years, a student’s prospects and their opportunities to learn are, of course, affected by individual circumstances, but in this exceptional period, almost all students have already had less opportunity to learn in the usual ways, because of the pandemic.’

Dame Glenys Stacey, acting chief regulator of Ofqual, said the assessments ought to be made ‘less daunting’ because the coronavirus was making teaching harder (stock image) 

Grade boundaries are tweaked every year to reflect the difficulty of the papers and based on the performance of previous year groups.

This is the first time the exams regulator has recommended lowered boundaries across the board. 

Dame Glenys added: ‘Some will be much more affected than others, because of their home circumstances or because of the path of the pandemic.

‘It is important that we recognise that in every way possible, in a joined-up way across the system, without bending examinations out of shape.’

Dame Glenys Stacey, acting chief regulator of Ofqual

It comes after Schools Minister Nick Gibb suggested to MPs last month that grading for next year’s GCSE and A-level exams could address the ‘lost education’ students have suffered amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Next year’s will go ahead in England, but the majority of A-level and GCSE exams will be pushed back by three weeks to give pupils more time to catch up on their learning following school closures.

The exams, which usually begin in May, will be delayed to June and July – apart from the English and maths GCSEs which will take place before the half-term.

The Department for Education (DfE) has not yet announced contingency plans for 2021 exams, but the interim Ofqual chief regulator said it is working with exams boards to prepare for a full range of scenarios the sector may face.

In the letter to Mr Williamson, Dame Glenys said: ‘We expect to be in a position to provide advice as to then allow you to determine and confirm contingency arrangements with the sector in November.’ 

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