What is the Current Position with A Level and GCSE Exams in 2021 as of 11th January 2021?

What is the Current Position with A Level and GCSE Exams in 2021 as of 11th January 2021?

In the absence of any formal notifications regarding how candidate grades will be awarded this Summer, following the cancellation of Summer 2021 exams, the media are attempting to fill the void.  Not surprising given Ofqual have yet to release their consultation paper with a further two-week period in which to respond. 

One of the most plausible scenarios to emerge over the weekend was reported by The Sunday Times, also featuring in the Times Education Supplement.  It has subsequently been reported by other media outlets. It proposes pupils could sit “mini exams”, marked by their teachers and sampled/moderated by the Awarding Bodies, in place of cancelled GCSEs and A levels.  It suggests these ‘exams’ would take place late in the Summer term but on no single date. Moreover, learners may have to take the tests at home if schools do not get the go-ahead to fully reopen in time. 

In addition to these ‘exams’ it is likely teachers will set some internal assessments in certain subjects, including an option for learners to submit a selection of work from the past two years. This follows the exam watchdog Ofqual’s interim chief regulator, Simon Lebus, saying people must deal with the “reality” that there are “perverse incentives” for teachers assigning grades in place of exams. 

So where would this ‘proposal’ leave those outside of mainstream education ie private candidates/Home Edder’s?  Well at present we simply do not know.  However, rest assured, Tutors & Exams are in dialogue with all stakeholders to ensure that private candidates will not be disadvantaged and will move heaven and earth to ensure any private candidate wishing to achieve a calculated grade this Summer will be able to do so.   

We have already submitted plans to host ‘mini’ examinations, should they proceed, at any of our five examination centres located across the country for all candidates registered with us. For those candidates unable to travel to a centre due to Covid related issues, we will look to remotely deliver these ‘exams’.  We will also work with our candidates to ensure they have ‘acceptable’ evidence, required by the Awarding Bodies, to support a calculated grade. 

What can you do in the meantime?  Please use the Ofqual consultation to raise any queries/concerns you have, particularly those points pertinent to those outside of mainstream education. 

Of course, this is all conjecture/speculation at present and we await a formal announcement from Ofqual.  The TES has indicated this will follow this week, ahead of any consultation findings.  As soon as we receive any official news, we will inform you accordingly. 

Until then here is what we do know: 

Ofqual Regulated Qualifications

Summer GCSE’s, AS and A Level’s have been cancelled. We await further clarification from Ofqual as to how candidate grades will be calculated. Ofqual are about to release a consultation on the process for awarding grades this Summer and will allow a two-week period for responses.

Pearson International GCSE’s

Pearson have announced ‘business as usual’. January International qualifications are currently running, good luck to all those candidates sitting this series. They have also announced that Summer exams will run as normal too. I think the rationale behind this decision is that primarily International GCSE’s are used by home educators and private candidates and that their learning shouldn’t have been interrupted in the same way that school children’s have. In addition to that, the UK is a fraction of the International assessments and it would be wrong to have two systems working in different countries. Pearson Announcement We have spoken with a lawyer who has confirmed that in law if you are travelling for exams, it falls under one of the “stay home” exemptions, so you will not be breaking the law by attending.


As with Pearson CAIE have confirmed that International GCSEs will go ahead in the UK this Summer. Their statement, released 8th January, can be found here.

A final thought…

Tutors & Exams staff are working incredibly hard and diligently for you throughout this pandemic. They haven’t stopped since last February! Our staff do not know any more than the information provided here. They are working under incredibly difficult circumstances, some from home, some from work, running exams, and preparing for this week’s release of results from the extraordinary November series. We are acutely aware that the decision to cancel exams for the 2nd year running is extremely stressful for all parents/carers and learners. Many of you are anxious and are looking for clarity as to what happens next. As we are too! But please remember it is not our decision as to whether examinations take place or not, are only acting on the instructions of the Awarding Bodies and Ofqual. Our dedicated staff are currently placing themselves at risk to run the January series of exams as they understand the importance of them to you and how disadvantaged you all were last year. And we’re here for you again this Summer, that you can be sure of.


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