Closed petition Cancel GCSEs and A Levels in 2021

The Government should cancel GCSEs and A Levels in 2021 due to the disruption of Covid-19. By the time students go back to normal learning, 6 months will have passed since schools were closed to most pupils. This has already had a huge impact on the studying of so many.

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Students in the UK have already missed hundreds of hours of learning since 23rd March. This has had a huge effect. Some pupils don’t have the essential resources: a working computer, textbooks, stationary, etc. Many don’t have a proper learning environment, therefore results will most certainly not reflect the true efforts of pupils. Hence why I am writing to the Government to cancel GCSEs and A Levels and provide predicted grades to show the true reflections of students across the country.

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Parliament debated this topic

This topic was debated on 7 December 2020

Watch the petition 'Cancel GCSEs and A Levels in 2021' being debated

Government responded

This response was given on 20 October 2020

The Government is committed to GCSE, AS and A level exams taking place next year. We continue to believe that exams are the best and fairest way of judging students’ performance.

Read the response in full

We recognise that Year 11 and 13 students due to take exams in 2021, 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 continue to believe that exams are the best and fairest way of judging students’ performance and the Government is committed to GCSE, AS and A level exams taking place next year. The Department has 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 for 2021.

In July, Ofqual ran a consultation on a range of possible measures, with the overriding aim of ensuring that exams and assessments are as fair as possible. Ofqual published its decisions (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/proposed-changes-to-the-assessment-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2021) on the proposed changes on 3 August. These decisions include 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. In some subjects with a high volume of content - GCSE history, ancient history and English literature – Ofqual confirmed that exam boards should change how they assess students next year by allowing a choice of topics in the exams. For GCSE, AS and A level geography, there are changes to the requirements relating to fieldwork, both to free up teaching time and to take account of the fact that public health restrictions may make it difficult for students to fulfil the requirements next year. A full list of all subject-level adaptations to exams and assessments in 2021 can be found at Appendix A in Ofqual’s decisions document (https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/proposed-changes-to-the-assessment-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2021). On 12 October, the Government confirmed that no further subject-level changes to exams and assessments will be made for GCSEs, AS and A levels. This confirmation gives teachers, school leaders and pupils clarity on what will be assessed in exams next summer. The government also announced the decision to delay most GCSE, AS and A level exams next year by 3 weeks to free up additional teaching time.

Exams next year will be underpinned by contingency measures developed in partnership with the sector. The Education Secretary wrote to Ofqual on 12 October to ask the regulator to work closely with him, school and further education leaders, exam boards, unions and the higher education sector to develop these arrangements. More detail will be published later in the autumn, to ensure students have confidence that they will be fairly treated in terms of assessment in 2021.

We have announced a package worth £1 billion to ensure that schools have the resources they need to help all pupils make up for lost teaching time. This package includes a universal catch up premium of £650 million and £350 million for a National Tutoring Programme for disadvantaged pupils. Whilst head teachers will decide how the money is spent, the Education Endowment Foundation has published guidance on effective interventions to help schools make the best use of resources. This £1 billion package is on top of the £14 billion three year funding settlement announced last year, recognising the additional work schools will need to do to help pupils to catch up.

We have also announced a 16-19 Tuition Fund, allocating up to £96m as a one-off, one year, ring-fenced grant to school sixth forms, colleges and all other 16-19 providers. This will provide small group tutoring activity for disadvantaged 16-19 students whose studies have been disrupted as a result of COVID-19.

The Department has provided a range of resources to support schools in delivering remote education. Schools may draw on examples of remote teaching practices employed during school closures and develop their own approaches to providing remote education, as well as building on our work with sector-led initiatives such as Oak National Academy. This new organisation was created by 40 teachers from schools across England and is producing at least 180 hours of online lessons per week for Reception up to Year 11 across a range of subjects. There is also specialist content for pupils with SEND covering their specific educational needs.

The Government has also committed over £100 million to enhance remote education, including providing devices and internet access for vulnerable children who need it most. This funding is intended to ensure that every school has access to free, expert technical support in using Google for Education or Microsoft’s Office 365 Education, where needed, by offering peer support from schools and colleges more experienced with the use of education technology.

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.

Department for Education

Other parliamentary business

Government announces arrangements for 2021 GCSE and A-level exams & Petitions debate scheduled

Plans for 2021 exams announced

On Thursday 3 December, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP made a statement in the House of Commons about arrangements for GCSE and A-level exams in 2021.

Watch the statement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39jeJ544Cf4
Read the transcript: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-12-03/debates/A2EF5254-E793-4012-8A93-1B9FF2F0B21E/ExamsAndAccountability2021

Petitions debate

The Petitions Committee has scheduled a debate on this petition, and others relating to the impact of Covid-19 on schools, for Monday 7 December. A Minister from the Department for Education will respond for the Government. MPs may use this opportunity to question the Minister on the Government's plans.

Watch the debate from 6pm, Monday 7 December: https://youtu.be/7r7ECc92V3g
Read the transcript (published shortly after the debate has finished): https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-12-07
Follow the Committee on Twitter and join the debate using #CovidSchoolsDebate: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions.

Ministerial statement on educational settings update

On Wednesday 6 January there was a Ministerial statement on educational settings, by the Secretary of State for Education, where he set out arrangements for teaching during school closures, and announced that GCSE, AS-Levels and A-Levels would not go ahead this summer.

You can watch the statement by Gavin Williamson MP, and his responses to questions on the topic here: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/50819052-b299-4c6b-b135-036382b25b43?in=13:22:50&out=14:44:10

A transcript of the exchange is available here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-01-06

What is a Ministerial statement?

Ministerial statements are a way for Ministers to bring an important matter to the attention of the House, often at short notice.

Government Ministers may make oral statements to Parliament which usually address major incidents, government policies or actions.

Find out more about Ministerial statements here: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/statements/

Share your views on how GCSE, AS and A level grades should be awarded in summer 2021

Ofqual and the Department for Education have launched a consultation on how GCSE, AS and A level grades should be awarded in summer 2021. They'd like to hear from students who were due to take their exams, their parents and carers, their teachers, school and college leaders and others who have an interest, including further and higher education providers, and employers.

The consultation outlines proposals for grades based on teacher assessment, and asks for views on these, including how teachers should be supported to make their assessments fairly and consistently.

You can find out more about the consultation and contribute here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-how-gcse-as-and-a-level-grades-should-be-awarded-in-summer-2021

The consultation closes at 11:45pm on 29 January 2021.