UK and Welsh Governments must avoid ‘chaotic’ exam measures in 2022

After a number of U-turns concerning 2021 assessments, Green spokespeople and supporters have expressed concern over the uncertainty of exam measures for next year’s cohort.

An exam hall filled with desks

Akshay Chauhan

Emily Herbert

The Green Party has called on the UK and Welsh Governments to provide clarity over exam measures for 2022.

With students across the country receiving A Level results today, the Green Party are urging the central and devolved Governments to issue clearer guidance, in order to avoid the uncertainty felt by the past two academic cohorts.

Vix Lowthion, Education Spokesperson for the Green Party, said: “This year has been one of the hardest for students ever, and so every single person receiving their A Level results today deserves praise and respect for their achievements.

“Despite facing huge uncertainty over exams, lost learning time and not being protected from Covid, young people up and down the country have shown the sort of drive and resilience which should set an example for us all.

“The government faces serious questions over just how chaotic the last two years have been for schools and colleges, and we need to hear from Gavin Williamson immediately about exam measures for next summer so that the class of 2022 do not face the same hardships as the two previous years.”

Anthony Slaughter, Leader of the Welsh Green Party, also commented: "Students in Wales have had to endure one of the toughest 12 months imaginable, yet the Labour government here is still yet to offer any semblance of a plan for next year.

“Teachers have also had to deal with an enormous amount of extra stress in being solely responsible for students’ grades, and so we fully support union calls for clarity over next year’s exams for their benefit also.”

Many teachers’ unions have called for the new exam measures to ease their workloads, as adapting lessons for online learning, as well as deciding, in many cases, the futures of their students, has put a huge strain on teachers’ mental health.

Many students agree that the government’s indecisiveness regarding the pandemic has drastically affected their studies.

Natalia Kubica, A Level student and committee member of Young Green Womxn, said: "My sixth form was very helpful during the lockdowns, though I wasn't able to work at home and I fell very far behind in the first one - fortunately able to catch up later.

“The government utterly failed our year group with the lack of support and the dithering with exams at the start, though ultimately made the right decision to cancel our exams."

44.8 per cent of this year’s A Level students were awarded an A* or A grade, compared to 25.2 per cent in 2019, the last year of regular examinations. This has also increased dramatically from 27.6 per cent in 2020, during which the DfE put in place a system to cap higher grades based on each school’s previous performance.

However, research by Ofqual regarding equality of A Level results suggests that the longstanding gaps in outcome of Black candidates, FSM candidates, and candidates with a very high level of deprivation relative to their respective reference group, have widened by 1.43, 1.42 and 1.39 percentage points since 2019.

In response to the disruption students have faced throughout the pandemic, Ofqual has recently announced a consultation on proposed changes to next year’s GCSE and A Level assessments.

The consultation recognises that students set to finish their A Levels in 2022 have struggled with many of the same difficulties as this year’s cohort, with the DfE pledging to invest in various educational recovery measures to supplement this loss of teaching – including tutoring, summer schools, mental health support, and further teacher training.

However, the UK Government has announced that exams are otherwise set to go ahead in 2022, claiming that they are ‘the best and fairest means of assessment’, and that ‘every effort should be made to maintain the standard and rigour of the qualifications’.

Cody Garland, A Level student and Young Green, said: “Given the experience I've had these past two years, I can safely say that forcing 2022 finishers to take normal exams would be unfair, and would disadvantage students who have been most affected, such as neurodivergent students like myself.

“Be it Centre Assessed Grades like this year, or a modified or simplified exam, some provision must be taken to level the playing field.”

Ofqual are set to announce their final decisions regarding 2022 exam measures in the autumn, but have stated that ‘these adaptations will apply for students entering the qualifications in summer 2022 only and it is our firm intention that exams will return to normal in 2023’.