UK board exams cancelled: how will pupils be assessed in the absence of tests?

Some UAE schools held two mock exams to gather evidence of pupils' performance

Teacher-assessed grades will be used to evaluate pupils in the UK and at British schools in the UAE this year after major exam boards cancelled their end-of-year tests.

Oxford AQA and Cambridge International confirmed that their IGCSE and A-level exams will not go ahead in the UAE in June.

The UK government announced that pupils will be graded by teachers instead of sitting exams.

"Teachers will be able to draw on a range of evidence when determining grades, including the optional use of questions provided by exam boards, as well as mock exams, coursework, or other work completed as part of a pupil's course, such as essays or in-class tests," the UK's department of education announced.

"No algorithm will be used."

Pupils will be able to use these grades to apply to universities.

In 2020, the UK government was criticised for using an algorithm to assess pupils, which downgraded many of the predicted results.

Some schools in the UAE prepared for a situation where exams were cancelled.

Several British schools in the emirates held two mock exams, instead of one, to gather sufficient evidence of pupils' performance.

Last summer, the cancellation of final-year exams – including the International Baccalaureate, A-levels, and some Indian School Certificate tests – meant pupils were graded based on mock exams or internal projects.

That led to resentment because many thought they were unfairly represented by their results.

Oxford AQA, a major UK exam board, confirmed that teachers will assess pupils' performance based only on the content they have covered.

The grading will come as late in the academic year as possible, and schools have been advised to use a broad range of evidence.

Teachers will also be able to use evidence of a pupil's performance from throughout the course.

Universities to use teacher-assessed grades

Rebecca Coulter, vice principal at Dubai British School Jumeriah Park, said guidance from the exam boards had been drip-feeding since they decided to cancel the exams.

"We are using a combination of coursework assessments, internal assessments, mock exams grades, and end of qualification tests for the children," said Ms Coulter.

At the school, 60 pupils in grade 11 will get teacher-assessed grades.

Pupils at the school study for Oxford AQA and Pearson Edexcel qualifications.

"Universities will be using teacher-assessed grades in the same way they would use regular A-level grades," said Ms Coulter.

"The difficulty last year was that because an algorithm was applied, it lead to these awful situations where pupils did not get the results they expected.

"Teachers cried out at that point and said know they knew their pupils and how they had performed all the way through.

"We don't envisage that will happen to that extent this year as that algorithm will not be applied."

She said teacher-assessed grades would be rigorous, transparent, and fair.

"We increased our assessments to have regular progress checks and created a bank of evidence that would give a good picture of the child's progress," she said.

The deadline for submitting grades to Oxford AQA is June 18.

The exam board's results for International AS and A-level will be announced on August 10, and International GCSE results will be revealed on August 12.

Pupils will be able to appeal if they are unhappy with their grades.