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Summer exams in 2021 cancelled for the second year running

Students due to sit public exams in summer 2021 in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland missed face-to-face teaching for most of the summer 2020 term, and much of the spring term 2021. Some also had to self-isolate during the autumn term 2020.

In 2020, GCSEs, AS and A level exams, and those for some equivalent qualifications, were also cancelled. They were replaced with a controversial grading processes involving centre assessment followed by statistical standardisation. Ultimately, statistical standardisation was dropped in favour of teacher/ centre assessment, unless the adjusted grades were higher. Overall, final grades were signifcantly higher than in 2019.

Results in Summer 2021, and appeals

Summer 2021 again sees the widespread cancellation of exams, and awarding in all four home nations based on teacher- or centre-assessment, instead. In 2021, statistical adjustment processes are not being used. Final results for many qualifications, including GCSEs, A Levels, and Scotland’s National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers, will be released in August 2021. There will be review and appeal processes available where students believe they’ve received the wrong grades. 

England: plans to resume exams in summer 2022

In England, the Government is planning for exams to resume in summer 2022, and is consulting on assessment arrangements. It is proposing some changes to general, and vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs). However, concerns remain about whether these measures will go far enough to address inequalities, and whether schools, colleges, and students will have enough notice of the final arrangements. 

This briefing paper provides an overview on:

  • Awarding processes for 2021
  • Reviews and appeals where students disagree with their grades
  • Information on exam proposals for 2022
  • Background information on what happened in 2020, and how grades differed from previous years, between different groups of students, and different types of setting.

It focuses on England, but also includes some information on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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