GCSE students in England will be allowed to drop subject areas in English literature and history exams next year.
This comes after summer exams were cancelled citing public health concerns. Instead, exam boards will issue results based on factors such as a student’s predicted grades, results in previous exams and the performance of the school in previous years.
ABOUT 138,000 students in Scotland are the first in the UK to receive grades calculated in this way, for their Nationals, Highers and Advanced Higher courses.
Additionally, poetry will become optional, following concern that schools may not be able to cover all areas because of lockdown measures.
All students will have to write about a Shakespeare play, but they can choose two out of the three remaining content areas: poetry, the 19th Century novel and post-1914 British fiction and drama.
Exams watchdog, Ofqual, confirmed that a similar choice of topics will be available in GCSE history and ancient history to allow schools more choice over the content they teach.
“While there was some support for doing this to provide an extra couple of weeks of teaching time, there was concern about the knock-on effect it would have on the marking process,” says Ofqual
Having originally proposed that there would be no changes to the English literature exam in 2021, Ofqual said it had decided to offer students a choice of topics after schools expressed “significant concern” about their ability to cover all of the subject areas that form the basis of exam questions.
The exam regulator had also considered delaying the start of the GCSE exam season to 7 June instead of mid-May, but said it is still considering the best approach.
Deputy director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, Duncan Baldwin says the changes to exams “amount only to tinkering at the edges when it is clear that students could experience widespread ongoing disruption over the course of the next academic year.”
“Everybody can see that the situation with coronavirus remains precarious,” he said, adding that “schools may partially close in response to local outbreaks over the next year and students may need to self-isolate.”
It would, therefore, be “extremely challenging” to teach all the content for GCSEs and A-levels “on top of the disruption that has already taken place”, Mr Baldwin said.
Ofqual has yet to decide if 2021 exams will be delayed, to give teachers more time to prepare students.