Schools in England are set to hold ‘rigorous’ mock exams this winter as part of a ‘plan B’ in case coronavirus disrupts testing for a second year.
In government proposals, seen by The Guardian, the mock results will then be used to assess a student’s grade if Covid-19 outbreaks impact their ability to sit the final exam or prepare for it.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to announce preparations for the 2021 exam season next week, including a three-week delay to A-level tests. He will also confirm that mock exams in the winter will take place with controlled conditions, much like the real thing, it was reported.
However, some teachers and school leaders have expressed concern this will add more pressure to pupils and make it harder for them to cover a full syllabus in the year due to the added time revising.
Hamid Patel, chief executive of the Star academies trust, warned that ‘high-stakes assessments’ could create more challenges for students and said the process would need to be ‘carefully thought out’.
Tensions are also reportedly growing between exams regulator Ofqual and the Department for Education, with both bodies keen to avoid the chaotic results days which took place in August this year.
Ofqual’s standardisation process saw 40% of A-level results come back lower than predicted by teachers, with several students now taking legal action against the regulator.
Williamson was accused of trying to shift blame for the crisis onto Ofqual amid calls for his resignation. The regulator’s chairman Roger Taylor then responded by saying the Education Secretary had opted for the algorithm, when he had been advised to carry out exams in a socially distanced way.
A spokesperson for the DfE said: ‘We are committed to exams going ahead next year, as they are the best and fairest way of judging students’ performance.
‘There is broad consensus, including amongst unions and school leaders we have engaged with, that holding exams is the best option next summer.
‘We continue to work with Ofqual and exam boards to ensure these are fair and take into account the disruption caused by Covid.’
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