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‘Uncertainty persists’ over Ofqual’s plans for GCSE, AS and A Level exams

Announced by the Department for Education (DfE) at the end of February, Ofqual’s decisions about how grades will be awarded this summer have left ‘question marks’ over details but are ‘likely the least worst option’ according to unions.

Following a consultation, the DfE’s plans for GCSEs, AS Levels and A Levels in 2021 confirm that teachers must assess their students’ achievement to determine a grade, using evidence from throughout the course to award the grade ‘as late in the academic year as is practicable’.

Additionally, heads will be required to confirm that students have been taught sufficient content to allow progression to the next stage of education, although no minimum requirements will be set by the DfE.

The document also outlines plans for specific subjects such as art and design, GCSE English language, modern foreign languages and A Level sciences, although no performance subjects are referred to directly.

Responding to the announcements, Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: ‘Today’s announcement leaves many important questions of detail unanswered and teachers, school and college leaders and candidates remain uncertain about the precise nature of the arrangements that will be put in place.

‘That such uncertainty persists a matter of months before assessments are due to be completed is profoundly concerning.’

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary for the National Education Union (NEU), commented: ‘The process laid out by government today is better than the original consultation proposals and is likely the least worst option available.

‘It is helpful that government has listened to the consensus among the profession and this process gives students the best chance at grades which are as fair and consistent as possible in the circumstances.’

She continued: ‘However,


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there are still question marks over how it is expected that the extra work necessary to facilitate grading will be dealt with.’

According to NAHT, the plans ‘appear to chart a path which avoids the awful chaos of last year’, but general secretary Paul Whiteman points out that this announcement is only the starting point. Schools and teachers are now awaiting further detail from exam boards.

Separate decisions have been made for vocational and technical qualifications, but Ofqual has said that there can be no ‘one-size-fits all’ approach. More details at

Three UK conservatoires make top four in QS world rankings for performing arts

The higher education thinktank QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) has published its World University Rankings by Subject for 2021, with the UK boasting three of the top four for performing arts.

In the eleventh World University Rankings by Subject from QS, the Royal College of Music placed second with a score of 91.2, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) came in third (89.2), and the Royal Academy of Music ranked fourth (88.6).

The top spot went to The Juilliard School in New York and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et Danse de Paris is in fifth.

Higher Education institutions



E Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Symphony Orchestra are ranked using four key components: academic reputation, employer reputation, research citations per paper, and H-index (based on the set of the faculty’s most cited papers and the number of citations that they have received in other publications).

Speaking of the RCS’s position in the top three, Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: ‘It is especially gratifying to achieve this recognition at a time of great challenge to the arts in a global pandemic.

‘It is a tribute to the entire RCS community of students and staff who continue to show such creativity and determination to keep the arts flourishing and developing.

‘This exciting news demonstrates that our wider community places faith and trust in our conservatoire to be a place where the arts will continue to tell our shared stories and help rebuild our bonds of society.’

6 F April 2021 F MUSIC TEACHER

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