Plan B guidelines for 2023 exams confirmed | Rare Techy


The Government has confirmed that schools will again have to collect evidence of student performance if exams are canceled this year, with half of schools consulted but said this would increase workload.

The Department for Education and Ofqual have confirmed plans to “support resilience in the exam system” by 2023. The guidance tells schools to collect and retain evidence to be used for potential teacher grades for GCSEs and A-levels.

Both organizations said that “highly unlikely” tests cannot be canned, but that “good public policy means there should be contingencies even for very unlikely situations.”

The government faced heavy criticism for not having an “off-the-shelf plan B” when exams were canceled for the second time in early 2021 due to the pandemic.

A three-week consultation was held during the period on the draft guidance, which aimed to “improve and streamline” the process by creating the “lowest possible burden” while allowing a “broadly consistent approach” across all students.

But half of the teachers and senior leaders of schools and colleges responded. This arrangement will not prevent additional workload for teachers.

However, only 94 school and college staff responded to the consultation with a total of 213 responses.

Only two-thirds of respondents said the guidance should remain in place beyond 2023. Ministers plan to consider this over the summer.

Beware of overestimation

The Government and Ofqual said schools should plan exam opportunities in line with common assessment approaches such as mock exams. These can be varied if a school needs more evidence, she said.

But she stopped short of repeating advice about the frequency of testing from last year’s guidance, saying testing once a term was a “sensible approach”.

Teachers should “guard against over-assessment” and generally “should not spend more time on these assessments than their existing test plans”.

Ofqual has made some changes to clear guidance such that evidence can be stored digitally or physically, and that students are generally only assessed on the content they have been taught.

Students must be supervised during exams, but schools are not required to use external invigilators.

Exam workload warning

Overall, 158 of the 213 respondents agreed that the guideline was helpful.

However, the DfE and Ofqual said the main theme in the responses was the impact on teachers’ workloads in creating, marking and moderating assessments.

A senior leader responded that there was “no question” about the teachers’ workload: “Marking and moderating two sets of exams instead of one set of mock exams doubles the workload.”

But officials said that they did not say how many tests should be done.

An exam board told the consultation it feared students would focus on responding to assessments rather than focusing on learning opportunities.

One school said that “formative assessments that were previously valuable” can be turned into “magnified high-stakes” tests that affect their motivation and destroy their “love of learning”.

In response, officials said the guidance aims to help schools use the settings that “work best for them and their students.”

Some schools said that would include costs associated with preserving evidence.

Ofqual said it recognized this, but said it “must learn from the experience of the last three years and be proportionate to the objective of preparing to deal with the situation where exams cannot go ahead for any reason”.

The DFE will continue to monitor the financial health of schools and the cost pressures they face, she said.

Meanwhile, Ofqual has decided to press ahead with plans to provide exam aids such as formulas and equation sheets in GCSE maths, physics and combined science exams in 2023.

More than 93 per cent of respondents said they agreed with proposals for a maths formula sheet in 2023, and more than 95 per cent supported an equation sheet for physics and the combined sciences.


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