Historical Context, Exams in 2020 and 2021

In March 2020, examinations in the UK were cancelled as it was deemed that it would be unsafe for students to sit exams. The exams were replaced by centre assessed grades (CAGs)  These asked teachers and centres to predict how a student would have done if the examination had gone ahead.  CAGs were based on a ranking algorithm which has since been heavily criticised as being unfair to students from already disadvantaged backgrounds.

In September 2020, It was announced that some subject specifications would be modified to allow for fact that not all students had received the same level of tuition during lockdown.  You can see those specifications which were relevant to Oxford Home Schooling Students here.

In January 2021 it was announced that once again examinations would be cancelled.  This time because differential learning loss due to the pandemic made examinations unfair.  Centres were asked not to predict how a student would have done in the exam but to assess the standard at which the pupil was working.

In both years the Oxford Open Learning Trust has managed to assess the vast majority of its students and thus allowed the students to move onto the next stage of their learning.


On the 12th of July the DfE and Ofqual launched a consultation on how the assessment of General Qualifications will happen in June 2022.  The full consultation can be found here

The key takeaways from the consultation are:

  • The DfE intends examinations to go ahead in the usual time frame
  • Some more practical subjects will have minor tweaks to their assessment
  • Some subjects will have reduced syllabus options (History and English Literature)
  • For most subjects, students will be given some advance guidance as to the content examination.  This is likely to be released during the spring term

This consultation doe not address differential learning loss or contingency planning if Covid once again makes examinations impractical.  A separate consultation will be launched once examination results have been released dealing with contingency planning

According to a report by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Exeter released on the 7th of July 2021, on average students have lost around 60 days of learning between March 2020 and April 2021 with some students losing as much as 120 days of learning loss in this time.  Once again learning loss has been greater in students from more disadvantaged backgrounds.  The DfEs own research on learning during the panemic confirms this.

All this means that we don’t yet know exactly how assessment for 2022 will play out, although it seems likely that examinations will go ahead more or less as normal. However it develops, you can be assured that, like in previous years, The Oxford Open Learning Trust will do everything it can to ensure that its students are assessed in 2022 so they can once again move onto the next stage of their learning.