COVID-19 (Coronavirus) update

At this current time, we know that many teachers, learners and families are still feeling anxious about the continuing uncertainties that we are all facing right now.

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Supporting schools, colleges, learners and teachers with teaching and learning is one of our key priorities, and never more so than now and we've been working closely with Ofqual over recent months to finalise any changes to our qualifications and assessments for summer 2021. 

We're providing a range of information across subjects to help teachers understand the what this means for their subjects as well as support materials for both teachers and students to help in teaching and learning and preparation for summer 2021.    

Today, Wednesday 3 February 2021, we are confirming that will use a robust approach based on teacher assessment for International GCSE assessment in May/June 2021 and exams will not go ahead as planned. We will offer an additional exam series for International GCSE later this year.

Our priorities throughout this pandemic have been to keep everyone safe and well and to ensure fairness so that every student receives a grade that reflects their knowledge and understanding.

In making this decision, we have spoken to many schools, teachers and students and have carefully considered a range of options. These included having exams in some countries and teacher assessment in others. Given the ongoing uncertainty, we feel that this could not be done fairly and would risk unintentionally disadvantaging individual students.

You should continue to teach your students, and we will ensure that you are fully supported as we work through the next steps.

Additional exam series for International GCSE

In addition to confirming this approach for the May/June 2021 series, we also intend to make available an additional focused exam series for International GCSE later in the year. This will enable students who prefer to take exams to have the opportunity to do so. We will be consulting with you separately on this and are keen to hear your feedback.

Teacher assessed grades

For May/June 2021, we will use training, support and rigorous quality assurance procedures to ensure that grades are awarded fairly. This approach will be different to last year’s Centre Assessment Grades. As part of this, we are mindful of the needs of private candidates.

Ensuring that students can move on to the next stage of their education with confidence, and with the knowledge and skills to be successful, is of paramount importance. We want to ensure that all students have an opportunity to achieve a grade that reflects their knowledge and understanding and that is based on a rigorous and robust process.

Ensuring that all stakeholders have confidence in the outcomes of students, and that they are fair and consistent, is a key principle and we will be providing further details on this from early March.

Support for teacher assessed grading: our commitment to you

We know that you will be keen to understand more about how the teacher assessed grade will work. We are committed to providing schools with a comprehensive support package to complete teacher assessment.

To do this we will:

  • Provide all information regarding teacher assessed grades and associated activities in our bi-weekly newsletter as an update for Heads of Centre, Heads of Department, Teachers and Exams Officers
  • Share important news and updates on our website, social media channels and via the weekly Exams Officer Updates
  • Publish detailed guidance at the very earliest opportunity on the process of submitting teacher assessed grades
  • Produce user guides, videos and step-by-step instructions for any new processes and systems
  • Deliver enhanced support and training to support you in making the best decisions
  • Provide support to students, parents and carers to understand the processes being undertaken this year
  • Share more on the standardisation of teacher assessed grades, arrangements for year 10 or private candidates and appeals, once we can after the outcome of the Ofqual consultation.  

Ofqual consultation
The Ofqual consultation about the arrangements for summer 2021 closed on Friday 29 January. During the last two weeks we have been listening and talking with as many of you as possible about the consultation as we work through what we believe to be the best approach. We know that many of you have shared your insight and experience and this gives Ofqual the best chance of ensuring that the approach developed meets the needs of a range of stakeholders. 

Entries Deadline
The entry deadline is rapidly approaching, and it is important that you make your entries as usual by 21 February, to ensure that students receive their qualification grade this summer. Schools and colleges must make entries to the relevant Awarding Organisation for the specification that your students have studied. Where you may be supporting private candidates we would also advise you to make entries for them to help enable their progression. We appreciate that the arrangements are not yet clear for private candidates and so we will not penalise private candidates making entries or withdrawing after the deadline and until 22 March. 

Support for grading in 2021: Our commitment to you
We know that you are keen to start preparing for grading candidates for our UK General Qualifications, and we are fully committed to making sure you’ll have everything you need for each individual qualification at the very earliest opportunity.

We will continue to share important information on our website and social media channels, publish detailed guidance, user guides and videos at the very earliest opportunity and ensure that we provide enhanced support and training to support you in making the best decisions. 

We appreciate it may be frustrating at times, as we won’t have all the information and detail as quickly as you might want it and like you we eagerly await the outcome of the DfE and Ofqual consultation. As soon as information becomes available over the coming weeks and months, we promise to get it to you as quickly as possible. 

Details on the support that will be available for all subjects will be provided on our our Summer 2021 support page when it beomes available.

We know that you will want to understand the potential timescales of this approach. The dates provided below are an estimated timeline based on what we know at present but will be subject to change:

  • 21 February 2021: Entries deadline for UK centres for GCSE, AS, A level, Level 3 Core Maths, ELC
  • 22 February 2021: Ofqual announces outcome of consultation on how GCSE / A level grade should be awarded this year
  • 21 March 2021: Entries deadline for UK centres for International GCSE, Project, Edexcel Award
  • From mid-February 2021: Support and training from Pearson.

We understand you may have questions about how the changes to the summer 2021 series will affect your qualification fees. 

Whilst the final arrangements for assessment of GCSE, AS and A levels in summer 2021 are continuing to evolve, Awarding Organisations will be investing in training, assessment materials and quality assurance processes to support you in making your teacher assessment decisions. We'll work closely with you on this and provide all the support you need to make sure students receive grades this summer that fairly reflect what they know, understand and can do. 

In January we shared the details of our 2021 general qualification fees. We’ve worked hard to keep our fees as competitive as possible whilst providing the market-leading support we know you value.   

We’re pleased to confirm that for UK schools and colleges we’ll be extending the payment terms of the GCSE, AS and A level qualification summer entries to the end of June. We understand the financial pressure that schools and colleges face. To support you we are extending the payment deadline by three months, by which time we hope to have a better understanding of any potential rebate. 

As a reminder, we've put together a simple, visual guide to highlight what is included in the fees for general qualifications in a ‘normal’ year.  

Take a look at the visual guide.  

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We appreciate that arrangements are not yet clear for private candidates for summer 2021, however, centres should continue to make entries for private candidates as normal.

We will have more information once the arrangements for this summer have been confirmed by Ofqual, and you can see this on our Private candidates web page.

If you are a learner having difficulty finding a centre who is able to support you with your entries please go to our Private candidates web page.

We are compiling a list of centres who are able to support private candidates who were intending to sit exams this summer and will email you with further information once Ofqual have confirmed the arrangements in place for this summer. You can complete a form and we will email you with further information once Ofqual have confirmed the arrangements in place for this summer. 

At times like these, it’s important to look after ourselves physically and mentally. If you or your students are feeling stressed or anxious, take a look at the mindfulness and well-being support available to help you through this difficult time.

If you have any further questions and would like to speak to us directly, you can submit questions through our contact form or by calling +44 (0) 344 463 2535.

Further information and guidance

For further information on BTEC, Work-based Learning and Functional Skills, please read the questions and answers we have put together to help explain our current plans:

BTEC information and guidance

LCCI information and guidance

For further information and guidance, you can visit:

Ofqual updates to 2020 exams

Public Health England blog

Government guidance for educational settings

If you need to talk to us about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the effect on your centre and learners, Exam Officers can call us on +44 (0) 344 463 2535. If you are a training provider or employer, you can call us on +44 (0) 344 576 0045.