A-level and GCSE students should sit termly assessments to ensure there is enough evidence to determine their grades in case exams are cancelled again, it has been suggested.
Ofqual has published guidance for teachers on how they should gather evidence to assess their pupils’ performance if 2022 exams cannot go ahead.
Under the confirmed contingency measures, teachers are being advised to assess students “under exam-like conditions wherever possible” to help inform teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) if needed.
But headteachers’ unions have warned that hosting a series of mock exams could place students “under a great deal of pressure” and create “significant additional workload for teachers”.
The Ofqual guidance says a “sensible approach” may be for teachers to plan to assess A-level and GCSE students in the second half of the autumn term, the spring term and the first half of the summer term.
It adds that teachers should “guard against over-assessment” and tests should be “as useful as possible” for pupils preparing to take summer exams.
“Assessments should, therefore, be similar to full or parts of the exam papers they are preparing to take next summer. Past papers could be used, in full or part, where appropriate,” according to the guidance.
The Government is committed to GCSE and A-level exams going ahead in England in summer 2022, with adaptations to take account of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on this year’s cohort.
But Ofqual has published its final contingency plans in the event that exams have to be cancelled for the third year in a row amid Covid-19.
In a letter to students, Chief Regulator Dr Jo Saxton said: “For many of you this year will be your first experience of formal exams.
“We don’t want to add to your workload, which is why any additional assessments should help you prepare for your exams, and not create a distraction.”
In a separate letter to heads of schools and colleges, Dr Saxton said: “We hope that the guidance will help you take a proportionate approach in gathering evidence, and avoid an unnecessary assessment burden on either staff or your students.”
But Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “These plans involve students having to sit a series of mock exams which may or may not count towards their final grades, as well as then probably having to take formal exams next summer.
“This is far from ideal and places them under a great deal of pressure.
“But not having a contingency plan would risk a repeat of the chaos of the past two years, and therefore, on balance, this seems like the right course of action and the confirmed set of measures appear to be sensible enough.”
ASCL is calling on exam boards to produce banks of assessment questions “that can be used flexibly by schools and colleges to construct exam-style papers” in a bid to mitigate additional workload.
Sarah Hannafin, senior policy adviser for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We agree that centres should use existing assessment opportunities so that the collection of evidence to support awarding in the event that exams are cancelled works alongside the teaching, learning and assessment which teachers have planned for this year.
“Those assessment opportunities might need to be tweaked to ensure they align with the other points of guidance; for example, the conditions under which they are sat, the use of exam style questions, and the provision of reasonable adjustments.
“But there is no expectation that additional assessments should be taken by students only for the purpose of providing evidence for TAGs.
“This would create significant additional workload for teachers and add pressure to students who are working hard to complete their courses, detracting from teaching and learning and using up valuable lesson time.”
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