GCSE pupils will continue to receive help with some exams next year, as officials said children still need extra support owing to the pandemic.
The Department for Education has confirmed that teenagers sitting maths and science exams in 2023 will be given equation sheets so they don’t need to memorise formulae.
The decision has been made after teachers said retaining the extra exam support would help account for the disruption to education caused during the pandemic.
Respondents to an official consultation “thought that providing this support would be fair when comparing these students to previous cohorts and that it would make the experience of taking exams less stressful for students and increase their confidence," the Government said.
It is the fourth year of disruption to exams. In 2020 and 2021, pupils were given marks based on assessments by their teachers, instead of sitting exams, to reduce the spread of Covid, leading to record high grade inflation.
When exams returned in the last academic year, grades were set at a “midway” point to reflect the disruption to pupils’ learning caused by pandemic restrictions. Students were also given advance information in some exams and formulae and equations sheets for some tests.
Unfamiliar vocabulary will not feature in foreign language exams
The Government confirmed in September that exam grade boundaries for GCSEs and A-levels in 2023 will return to similar levels seen in 2019, but they have now said that some exam support will be retained for GCSE pupils.
The Department for Education also announced that it would make GCSE modern foreign language exams easier by removing unfamiliar vocabulary from tests.
From next year, exam boards will be required to give the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary, if they consider this necessary.
Teachers said the move would offer greater parity with other GCSEs, which do not assess students on unfamiliar material. They also said it would make modern foreign language subjects "more accessible and so increase the number of students choosing to study them."
Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, accused the Government of “dumbing down” exams. He said: “Young people want to do well but they prefer something else which is honesty.” He said the policy was “unfair also on previous year groups” who, pre-pandemic, were sitting harder exams.
He added: “These young people are going to be our doctors, nurses, engineers, politicians and bankers and we are going to worry why the bridges are collapsing in England because the engineers weren’t qualified."
Government 'being over cautious'
Prof Alan Smithers, the director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research, said: “I think the Government is being over cautious. Knowing the key formulae is a part of being able to fully understand the sciences and maths, and we have learnt to cope to Covid for more than a year so I think they should have been bolder and gone back to expecting the students to have learned these key formulae.”
Dr Jo Saxton, the Ofqual Chief Regulator, said: “In 2023, students will again have the opportunity to show what they know and can do in exams. We have listened to feedback and today’s decisions, together with some protection on grading, offer the degree of support students need as we move towards normality, while guarding against over-testing.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Ofqual have confirmed a return to pre-pandemic grading in 2023, with protection in-built against the disruption of recent years.
“There are some exceptions in GCSE subjects, which will continue to receive formulae and equation sheets to recognise their disruption they have experienced during the pandemic. These exceptions will end in 2024.”