GCSEs in 2021 How will grades be awarded this year?

How has COVID affected this year’s exams?

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, has now formally announced how GCSE pupils will be assessed this summer. The formal guidance from Ofqual on how qualifications will be awarded in 2021 can be found on the government website. Information below correct as of 25th February 2021.

What has the government announced?

As expected, the government has announced teachers will assess their pupils and give them a GCSE grade for each subject. There will be no algorithm used to determine grades in 2021, as this was widely discredited last year.

How will teachers assess their pupils and give them a GCSE grade in 2021?

Exam boards will issue detailed guidance to teachers and provide them with training. Currently, we do not know when this will be issued and what the guidance will be.

The government has also asked exam boards to create ‘Set Questions’ or ‘Question Banks’ to help schools assess their pupils. However, these are optional and do not have to be taken under exam conditions. They can be worked on at home and not under timed conditions. Furthermore, pupils will only be assessed on the areas of the syllabus that they have been taught, after months of school closures and varying levels of educational provision.

What does this mean for my child?

Every child sitting their GCSEs this year will be subject to the testing and evidence-gathering regime decided upon by their teachers and their school. Schools are already preparing to start testing children from when they return to their classrooms on 8th March.

Schools will want to support their pupils by having really strong evidence for the grades they give them. 

This means that pupils may be subject to mock exams, mini-tests, timed essays and extra coursework from the moment they return to school. The work they have already completed this year and last year can also count towards their final grade. Each GCSE pupil’s portfolio of work must be submitted to their exam board by 18th June 2021, allowing maximum time for teaching.

Unfortunately for children this year, the pressure to achieve their grades will be brought forward. ‘Cramming’ or leaving revision until the last minute, as many teens do, will be a disastrous approach in these circumstances. Pupils need to display the highest level of skill they can, as early as they can. For example, if they are hoping to achieve a Grade 9, they will need to work towards creating a portfolio of their work, demonstrating as much of it at Grade 9 standard as possible. So, higher order skills have to be attained now, not in the run-up to June exams as normal.

How can I help my child do their best in their 2021 GCSEs?

Parents should aim to keep their children enjoying their learning and trying their best, to the extent possible. Encourage them to work on all of their subjects in a structured, organised way. 

From speaking with our families, we believe that many Year 11 pupils have become seriously demotivated. The uncertainty has made their a place in sixth form or college seem, at best, uncertain and at worst, unattainable. Keep reminding your child of their goals – they need to do well in their GCSEs to make a good start in A Levels or college courses next year.

How can a tutor help with GCSEs in 2021?

girl sitting at a desk surrounded by books

Our experienced, qualified teachers are adept at developing teenagers’ motivation. Over 75% of our tutors current teach their specialist subject in London schools, and know the GCSE syllabuses inside out. They can mentor teens, building back their confidence and giving them the tools to succeed.

All Year 11 pupils will have suffered learning loss due to the pandemic. Our specialist GCSE subject tutors can consolidate their knowledge and explain difficult concepts that have been impossible to assimilate without consistently strong classroom teaching this year. We work with tutors that are passionate about their subject and who make it accessible to students of all abilities.

GCSE pupils will have to submit as much evidence as they can to their teachers this year for the grade they aspire to. This means for a humanities subject, for example, the essays they give in all this year will go into their portfolio of work and count towards their final grade. It makes sense, that essay technique is as good as possible, for as much of the portfolio as possible, so that pupils can attain a grade that fully reflects their talents and efforts. Our tutors can develop these skills with your child, standing them in good stead for higher education next year.

Learn more about our GCSE tutors.

When will GCSE results be announced in 2021 and can I appeal?

GCSE results will be announced one week earlier than usual, on 12th August 2021.

Uniquely for this year, all pupils will be able to appeal their grade and it will be free to do so.


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For further advice on how to help your child prepare for their GCSEs in 2021, get in touch today.