Exams 2021: What next?

3rd December 2020

There has been widespread coverage this week of covid’s impact on exams.

This morning (Thursday), the government set out its plans for exams in 2021 including a range of measures to compensate for disruption as well as an expert group to consider additional measures.

Commenting on the announcement Loic Menzies said:

“This morning’s announcement provides some welcome easing of the enormous additional pressures which schools and pupils will face when it comes to the 2021 exams season.”

“What remains to be seen is what will be done about the very unequal levels of disruption pupils have faced depending on their circumstances. The government has effectively kicked the can down the road on this front with its pledge to establish an ‘expert group’.”

“The uneven playing field which pupils face is the tricky, but unresolved crux of this matter. However, it is encouraging to see that today’s announcement leaves the door open for a considered response which I hope will build on emerging evidence regarding the inequalities the pandemic has created and exacerbated”

“Additionally, teachers and education leaders are already raising concerns regarding the plan to focus league tables on attendance figures, this is an area The Centre for Education and Youth will be looking at carefully in the next few days.”

Regional inequalities

The announcement comes hot on the heals of stories in local newspapers around the country on Wednesday reporting new data showing the impact of the 2020 exam fiasco on regional inequalities.

Analysis by the press association found that:

  • In 2018-19, the gap between the local authority with the highest % of children getting AAB or better and the lowest was 34%. In 2019-20, this has grown to 42%.
  • The gap between the LA with the highest % of 3 A star – A grades and the lowest last year was 28% – this has also grown to 37%.

Newspapers from Bradford to Wiltshire quoted comments from Loic Menzies arguing that:

“Inequality in society is always writ large when it comes to outcomes for children and young people. This year has been no exception. The summer’s exam chaos came on top of a lockdown that played out very differently for young people, depending on where they lived and how well off their parents were. It is therefore deeply worrying  – but unfortunately unsurprising, that this has played out in regional inequalities when it comes to exam results – despite the government’s stated commitment to ‘levelling up’.”

CfEY has been actively involved in helping give young people and teachers a voice in recent discussions about exam disruption notably through our two exams roundtable which received widespread coverage this summer .