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A Level, GCSE Exams 2021: 3-Week Extension, Mock Exam “Plan B”, Cut Down Syllabus, More Choice

A Level, GCSE Exams 2021: 3-Week Extension, Mock Exam “Plan B”, Cut Down Syllabus, More Choice

by David WestleyOctober 11, 2020

Schools in England are to hold rigorous mock exams this winter as part of a “plan B” to avoid the chaos of this year’s A-level and GCSE results. An expected three-week delay in the start of next summer’s A-level exams, and possibly GCSEs, to give teachers more time to finish courses is also expected. Mock exams will be held controlled conditions earlier in the year  – under exam-style invigilation, marking and grading.

The plans were revealed to the UK’s The Guardian newspaper. No mention was made of schools following the I/GCSE or the A Level curricula internationally. While it would make sense for the same system to be put in place universally, it would also require the participation of international exam boards, Pearson’s, Cambridge International and Oxford AQA.

Mock grades would be used to assess results where pupils’ exam preparations had been severely disrupted by coronavirus outbreaks, or in the event of exams being unable to go ahead in the summer.

The UK education regulator, Ofqual, is said to have presented the UK’s Department of Education a “bewildering array of options” for 2021 exams, “some contradictory”.

Relations between the two bodies is said to be “strained” after the government’s u-turn on mock exams being used to award A-levels and GCSEs this summer.

One of the criticisms of using mock exam results is that schools approach them with differing degrees of rigour, making it difficult to compare mock grades between centres. Some school leaders also argue that the use of mocks as a fall-back position could create problems, including piling more pressure on pupils to revise for mock exams, rather than studying new material.

A Department for Education spokesperson however said: “We are committed to exams going ahead next year, as they are the best and fairest way of judging students’ performance.

Ministers are said to be considering plans to cut back GCSE and A-levels to help the post-Covid generation prepare for exams. Exam boards “may be asked” to draw up papers which have a greater degree of optional questions.


Schools have contacted us to say that the current lack of clarity is “unsustainable” and “clarity is needed now, not later, to avoid this year’s chaos.”

Many believe that the Covid 19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for the examinations system at GCSE to be completely remodelled. Many schools now believe that, with children required now to stay at school until 18 years old, and with the majority of students now entering university or apprenticeships, there is no longer any justification for holding examinations at 16 at all. Many schools believe that examinations should be replaced entirely with teacher-assessed grades following their successful implementation this year when they were shown to have more accurately reflected the achievements of children. More on our view on examinations can be found here.

 © All right reserved. 2020.

Editors note:

The UK’s Guardian newspaper first revealed that the British government were considering introducing controlled mock examinations for all schools as a fallback in cases where schools and students are impacted by Covid 19.

About The Author
David Westley
David is the co-founder and GM of Which Media, the owner of and

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