Commenting on a consultation about exams and assessments in 2021, published today by Ofqual, Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

"The NEU is seriously concerned about the minimal suggestions made in Ofqual’s proposals for exams in summer 2021. It is welcome that the options for each subject have been considered based on the nature of that subject, as opposed to suggesting generic changes that may not suit each one.

"However in the majority of subjects the expectation that the full specification can be covered by next summer, after many months of lost teaching time, still remains.

"This expectation is unrealistic – delaying exams by 2 or 3 weeks next summer can’t make up for the months already lost, never mind any further potential time that may be lost due to subsequent waves of the virus or local spikes and lockdowns. The changes suggested to help reduce some tasks which take up large amounts of teaching hours sound generally helpful, but the Department for Eduation and Ofqual need to go further ​with changes to exam content otherwise they risk driving inequality in the system and undermining the results awarded next summer.

"Also, the suggestion that because A-Level students are older means that fewer changes are necessary suggests a lack of understanding of the situation that many students face. If there is a lack of access to computers, broadband or positive working environments for an A-Level student at home, then the fact they are a year or two older than their GCSE counterparts doesn’t mean these barriers suddenly disappear.

"We will be conveying members’ concerns and continuing to work with Ofqual, DfE and the exam boards to help find ways to make next summer fairer for all students, but in order to do so, it will require changes that go further than those currently being proposed."