General Qualifications Bulletin - UK - Issue 5 | Pearson qualifications

General Qualifications Bulletin - UK - Issue 5

17 March 2021
Pearson General Qualifications Bulletin

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As the end of term creeps closer, there’s a lot of work underway to ensure that exam boards can provide all the necessary support and guidance to you ahead of the Easter break. 

Our next bulletin will be published on 31 March and by this time we will be able to share the additional assessment materials and full details of the quality assurance processes that will be in place this summer.   

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In the meantime there are a few updates below including: 

  • details on the support we have already released 
  • further information on assessment materials 
  • arrangements for private candidates
  • an extension to the endorsement submission deadline.

To ensure you have the latest information, please continue to visit our dedicated support page, and follow us on Twitter (@PearsonEdexcel ) to keep up to date. If you would like to speak to us directly, you can get in touch with any questions via our contact form, or by calling the relevant team for your role.

My thanks again to you and your colleagues for the amazing work you are doing every day. 

Hayley White 
Assessment Director

We’ve been listening to feedback from students, parents and carers and we know they are keen to be kept informed about the assessment process this year and any additional support that we'll be producing to help them navigate the coming months.

Our Assessment Director, Hayley White has recorded a video that explains how grades will be determined this year and we’ve created a support page for students, parents and carers on our website.

We’ll use this to provide information, support and guidance to help make the summer 2021 process more transparent, and it will be updated regularly. You can also download a student-friendly timeline (PDF, 0.1 MB) that provides details and key dates for the awarding of GCSE, AS and A levels this summer.

In addition we have a created a form so students, parents and carers can provide feedback to us or suggest any further support materials they may find useful.   

Please do share this information with your students and encourage parents and carers to take a look.

We know that you are already doing a tremendous job and are keen to start work on preparing for grading your students. We'll be providing detailed guidance and support in the form of video presentations, infographics and step by step guides to ensure you are able to give your students fair grades so they can progress on to their next stage. 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.

Full details can be found on our summer 2021 support page. We’re committed to providing you with the best support available and we'll make sure that you’ll have everything you need before the Easter break.

We’ll also provide support and guidance documents via our Professional Development Academy as well as running optional Q&A sessions which we will record and make available. You can sign up now to be sure you’re informed as soon as training material becomes available. 

We’ve not seen any new dates or deadlines confirmed since the last bulletin, but please refer to this timeline (PDF, 0.1 MB) on our website that we’ll keep updated as things progress.

As you know the Department for Education and Ofqual have confirmed arrangements for how this year’s GCSE, AS and A level results will be graded and issued to students. We want to ensure fairness for all students taking our qualifications and to ensure parity between the approach taken for GCSE and A level with some of our other qualifications.  

Therefore, for the following qualifications we will align to the same evidence-based approach that we are using for GCSE, AS and A level qualifications: 

  • Edexcel Awards in Mathematics 

  • Edexcel Advanced Extension Award in Mathematics 

  • Mathematics in Context (Level 3 Core Maths) 

  • Entry Level Certificate (English, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science). 

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, appropriate for the qualification being delivered, to inform the grade which will be submitted to Pearson.  

We're now working through the detail of these arrangements to understand what they mean for schools, colleges, teachers and students. We will keep you informed of new guidance and information when these details have been confirmed. To ensure that you have the latest information please continue to visit our dedicated support page.   

You may have seen in Ofqual's consultation outcome documentation 'Decisions on how GCSE, AS and A level grades will be determined in summer 2021' (PDF, 0.4 MB) that exam boards will be providing teachers with a package of support materials including training, guidance and support to use as tools to help them assess their students this summer.

As suggested within the consultation outcome, the common assessment materials or 'additional assessment materials' will be drawn from past paper content. This past paper content will be both published and unpublished. Published being those materials publicly available on the Pearson website and unpublished being those materials still under padlock to our centres (mainly papers from 2019/2020). In most cases, question paper coverage is such that it allows us to draw upon our past paper content, without the need to supplement with new content.

What does the support material look like?

n most cases the support material, namely the additional assessment materials, will be content organised in such a way that it will allow teachers the freedom to select and assess the content that they have taught their students. The content could be organised by topic, theme, skills or demand, depending on how the qualification is devised and this should mean that teachers will have a flexible approach to assessing their students.

In order to use the organised content, teachers will be provided with a mapping grid which will provide details as to where this content has been drawn from as well as information like what assessment objectives the question meets. As suggested by the Secretary of State a proportion of this content will be drawn from unpublished materials (namely 2019/2020 papers). 

In addition to the mapping grid, teachers will be provided with the questions organised by topic, theme, skills or demand which teachers can then use to assess their students. The mark schemes for these questions will also be provided to teachers.  

What about modified papers? 

To support accessibility modified paper information will be shared, so that teachers can select modified items to assess their students. We will indicate on the mapping grids where modified materials have been created.   

Wherever possible centres should utilise existing modified past papers but where this is not appropriate we will provide support and work with you to find alternative solutions to meet the needs of your students including the production of further modified versions, including for enlarged format or braille. 

When will these be released to teachers? 

Final confirmation of the date of release will be shared by Ofqual following the outcome of their technical consultation, but we hope to be able to provide the additional assessment materials as near to the end of the spring term and the start of the summer term to support teachers in preparing to assess their students. 

It is likely that the support materials will be released in two phases with the additional assessment materials coming first, followed by the support and guidance material which would focus on aspects such as marking exemplification. 

Is the use of the additional assessment materials compulsory?

The use of additional assessment materials in assessing your students is optional. As stated in the Ofqual Consultation outcome 'It would therefore be potentially unfair to enforce compulsory use of these materials'.


As previously communicated there will be a quality assurance process that underpins the teacher assessment grades this summer. We are working with Ofqual, DfE, JCQ and the other exam boards and will provide detailed information about how this process will work in the next bulletin. 

JCQ has issued interim guidance for private candidate centres offering GCSEs, AS and A levels, outlining those elements of the assessment process that are particularly relevant for private candidates. The guidance can be found on the JCQ website (PDF, 0.2 MB).  

JCQ is also contacting centres this week to give them the opportunity to be included in a list of centres who are happy to take additional private candidate entries, so that we can support private candidates to find a suitable centre. This list will be available at the end of March and will cover GCSE, AS and A levels. To make sure that private candidates have sufficient time to make entries, we will be waiving late fees for private candidates up to 26 April. 

DfE has issued details of its private candidate support grant, which will provide £200 for eligible centres in England accepting private candidate entries for GCSEs, AS and A levels to cover the additional costs of assessment this summer. This will ensure that private candidates who are eligible for the scheme do not need to pay more for their entry this year than they would in a normal year. 

In the last bulletin we outlined that the joint Ofqual and DfE consultation outcome confirms that for GCSE English Language, GCSE modern foreign languages and A level sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), centres should determine and submit a separate grade or result for the endorsement. This result or grade should be based on work that has been completed towards the endorsement.

It has since been agreed by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) and all exam boards, that the deadline for submitting the endorsement grade or result will be extended until 18 June 2021 in line with the submission deadline for teacher assessment grades.

We will be aligning our approach to endorsements for our international qualifications, and so the deadline of 18 June 2021 also applies to the endorsements for our International GCSEs.

We are finalising subject specific guidance on endorsements and will be sharing this with you by the end of March. 

Following the Summer and November series, we are offering a service for students to receive a single, combined certificate showing the higher of the two results for each subject.

Students are only eligible to receive a combined certificate if both sets of results were achieved at the same centre. Please be advised that we cannot remove subjects from the combined certificate that were sat across these two sessions. This service can be requested by students or Examinations Officers on our Certificate Services page.

If you’d like to find out the latest information and support for our vocational qualifications, please take a look at our FE support page where you can find news and updates, with links to our regular VQ Bulletin which contains all the key updates you need for our vocational qualifications.  


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