Last reviewed 21 January 2021

We reported recently that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson had contacted Ofqual with regard to his decision to replace normal examinations in the year ahead (see “Exchange of letters on alternative arrangements for exams in 2021”).

The Department for Education (DfE) and Ofqual have in this context launched a consultation seeking views on how to award grades in a way that reflects students’ performance accurately, recognising the disruption they have faced this year.

With full details available at, the consultation is open for comments until 29 January 2021.

Grades will, the DfE said, be based on teacher assessment, with teachers supported in making decisions with guidance and training from exam boards.

The consultation considers the range of evidence teachers use to award a grade, which could include coursework, other forms of assessment and papers provided by exam boards, to support consistency and fairness across schools and colleges.

Mr Williamson said: “These proposals should give young people confidence that despite exams being cancelled, they will still receive a grade that reflects their ability. This is quite rightly an issue of great public interest and concern and it’s important that those working in education alongside students, parents and employers are able to have their say.”

The consultation also seeks views on results being issued to students earlier than usual to allow enough time for appeals to be processed ahead of the start of the new term.

It asks whether externally set papers should be mandatory or optional for schools and colleges. Where they are used, they would form only one part of a teacher’s wider assessment of a student.

There are proposals to give teachers flexibility to choose the papers they use for assessment based on the areas of the curriculum their students have covered.

Similar alternative arrangements are proposed for students taking vocational and technical qualifications, such as BTECs and Cambridge Technicals, to ensure students are treated fairly and are equally able to progress

This second consultation can be found at and the deadline for submitting responses is the same: 29 January 2021.