COVID-19 (Coronavirus) update

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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.    

Update 19 March 2021 

We have previously confirmed that we 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.  

To ensure fairness for all students around the world, we want to ensure parity with our UK qualifications and so will align the evidence-based approach for international qualifications with the approach for UK qualifications, as far as it is sensible to do so.  

We also recognise that there are a range of circumstances faced by international schools and we are committed to providing assessment materials, services, support and guidance to ensure that you can proceed with confidence.  

Student grades will be derived by teachers and centres with support throughout from Pearson. With our support it will be possible to use a variety of evidence to inform the grade which will be submitted to Pearson. 

We want to ensure that you have access to assessment materials that will enable objective and fair judgements to be made about student performance; we have also heard from you that you want us to support you in translating evidence-based judgements into grades. 

The approach for this series will be underpinned by a quality assurance process that focuses on helping you to make judgements, based on evidence, that are objective and consistent. There will be several different stages, and we will provide more detail on this shortly, but we are committed to ensuring that it is supportive and not overly burdensome. 

Support and Guidance 

We promise to now work with you to make sure students receive grades to progress to the next stage of their education. We'll provide detailed guidance and support to ensure this happens. This will include how to reach grading decisions, the creation of assessment materials, the quality assurance process and appeals, along with the general support around timelines and submission systems. We will also be providing support for teachers through our Professional Development Academy where teachers will be able to sign up and access a range of resources. We will share further details with you shortly.   

Unseen test materials for International GCSE  

One of the forms of evidence that Pearson will make available is the optional use of unseen test materials. These test materials can be used in two ways:  

1. As unseen materials presented to students in a controlled situation, in a specified timeframe, for them to respond to 


2. After the specified timeframe, in the knowledge that they may be familiar to students, used as one part of the evidence that supports the teacher grade.   

Individual countries can choose to mandate these optional elements and will communicate their decisions directly with their schools. In countries where the Ministry of Education does not choose to mandate an approach, the decision can made by schools who will communicate directly with students.  

We will start to dispatch unseen content materials from 9 April for delivery into centres before 26 April.  We will track all deliveries and work with you should we see any delays in transit. For late entries, made after 21 March, you will need to print from our secure download service (SDS), if you require materials to be sent via secure file transfer (SFT) please contact our customer services team on 00 44 120 477 0696.  

Please remember that these materials are secure until the dates specified and should be treated in the same way as any other examination materials.  

The specified dates for the use of unseen content will be published on our website on shortly. 

Marking service 

To support the use of these unseen materials, we'll be offering an optional marking service where our expert examiners will mark your students’ responses. We'll mark the test materials and return a mark to you for your consideration when deriving the student grade. We'll provide you with support to understand how the mark aligns with performance descriptors so that you can be confident in your understanding of the mark. This will be an optional service and if you'd prefer to mark the materials yourself, we'll be providing mark schemes and training materials so that you can do so with confidence.  

We’ll be sharing details of how to confirm that you’d like to utilise the optional marking service to centres next week.  

Attendance Registers will be supplied to all centres regardless of whether they are using the optional marking service or not. The registers will also include returns labels for those wishing to return papers for marking. Please only return your completed attendance registers where you would like to make use of our marking service, indicating any students as absent if you are not returning a paper for every candidate entered. 

We will not be providing our usual stationery such as bags for returning scripts, if you would like to use the marking service and require returns bags, these can be ordered by completing our additional stationery request form.  

We will be providing modified unseen content to support students this May/June. If you submitted a modified order before 21 March for large print or interactive materials PDF formats will be available via our secure download service (SDS). Tactile and braille assessments will be dispatched from 9 April.  If you require models & shapes for any of our International GCSE, AS or A Level Maths assessments please email by 29 March. 

In order to assist centres we have created a comprehensive guidance on the process for deriving grades this summer. This document provides an overview of the approach together with detail on each of the specific aspects – including quality assurance, grading and appeals. It is important that you take time work through the document and in the coming weeks we will do all that we can to support you in your understanding of it.

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We understand that exams remain important to you and your students, therefore we intend to run an additional focused exam series for International GCSE later in the year. 

We have recently consulted with you to help us understand your needs and priorities in relation to additional exam opportunities in 2021. 

We are now evaluating the feedback which will be used to support decisions regarding the preferred timeframe for an additional series for Pearson Edexcel International GCSE. 

The Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual have confirmed their approach for issuing grades in summer 2021. You can find more detailed information on their website, but we've summarised the main points below:

  • Exams will not go ahead as planned
  • A teacher-assessed grades approach will be used for all UK-regulated qualifications, including GCSE, AS and A level, AEA and Projects
  • Judgements will be quality-assured by awarding organisations
  • Teachers will collate a ‘basket of evidence’ for pupils expecting to receive a grade this summer
  • Students will be able to appeal their grades
  • Results days will be on 10 August for AS and A level and 12 August for GCSE.

We know that you're keen to start preparing for grading candidates for our UK general qualifications and to understand how this applies to international general qualifications. We'll make sure that you’ll have everything you need for each individual qualification at the very earliest opportunity.

To ensure you're kept fully informed, important information and updates will be shared with you via our website and our social media channels. We'll provide detailed guidance, user guides and videos as soon as possible, as well as enhanced support and training to help you in making the best decisions. This support will be delivered in stages and we'll let you know as soon as this becomes available.

Details about the support that will be available for all subjects are provided on our our Summer 2021 support page.

In addition, we'll be providing support and guidance documents via the Pearson Professional Development Academy as well as running training sessions. 

Support materials are now available for you to access via the Professional Development Academy, with further materials following throughout April and May. We have been running live training sessions for both UK and International qualifications and recordings of these events will made available shortly after they have taken place.

Sign up to be updated as more training becomes available

Below is the initial timeline of some of the key activities that we're working towards. We'll update this as more key dates become available.

On 25 February, the Department for Education and Ofqual confirmed that results will be issued to students in early August.

  • A level results will be issued on Tuesday 10 August 2021.
  • GCSE and International GCSE results will be issued to students on Thursday 12 August 2021.

As usual, exam boards will release results to centres on the preceding day.  

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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. 

It’s been a very challenging and uncertain year for all students, parents and carers and, with the cancellation of the summer exam series, we appreciate you will be keen to know what to expect over the coming months.

Take a look at our Support for students, parents and carers web page where we'll be providing you with information, support and guidance to help make the summer 2021 processes more transparent, and to help you understand what Ofqual and the Department for Education have asked your teachers to do to ensure that you receive a fair grade this summer.

We will also be sending regular email updates to parents and carers to keep you informed of the latest qualification news and developments for summer 2021.

Sign up to the parents and carers newsletter

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.