UAE: GCSE, A-Level exams to go ahead in 2022; will have teacher-assessed grades

Headteachers await official confirmation on this from the UK’s Department for Education


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Wed 12 Jan 2022, 5:29 PM

The GCSE and A-Level exams are likely to take place this summer, but the results will feature some teacher-assessed grades, explained headteachers of the English National Curriculum in the UAE.

School Principals also highlight that they are awaiting official communication from the UK’s Department for Education (DfE).

As per the Independent, speaking in the Commons earlier, UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said GCSEs and A levels would “absolutely” take place – after two years of disruption due to the pandemic. These exams were all cancelled in 2021 for the second year.

However, school leaders in the UAE reiterate that their staff and student body are resilient and remain well prepared for every eventuality while looking forward to a fair assessment.

Robert Curry, Vice Principal, GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis says, “At this time, the UK government and all exam boards have stated they plan to run the summer exams as normal. If we were to receive an update on this, we would respond to changes in the assessment landscape – as we have in recent years. Our teachers and school leaders are well practised in providing accurate and rigorous assessment information based on everything we know about the students’ performance, including rigorous mock examinations and portfolios of assessment evidence. As always, we would communicate all our plans directly with our students and their parents.”

“In the meantime, we are working hard with students to ensure they are continuously progressing and being given plenty of opportunities to showcase their learning and understanding”, Curry adds.

Principals note, for institutions, the focus remains on preparing students for all eventualities.

They want to ensure that students feel confident in their abilities, have the best subject knowledge, and apply it successfully, whether for examinations or Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs).

Principal, Dubai British School EH, Simon Jodrell, says, “Schools, such as ours who undertake GCSE and A-level courses are currently waiting on final guidance from the UK’s Department for Education (DfE) regarding procedures for examinations in Summer 2022. At present, we are preparing students for the probability of public examination and the possibility of a repeat of last year’s Teacher Assessed Gradings.

We do know examination boards will provide advance information about the focus of content covered in exams, and some subjects will have support materials, this will enable us to focus specifically on certain areas of study whilst collating a strong portfolio of evidence from students should TAGs be needed.”


Headteachers also reiterate that with the rise of the Omicron variant, many discussions are still taking place online on whether schools will have a third year of Centre Assessed Grades or a hybrid model where some grades are Centre Assessed, and some grades are awarded through traditional external exams.

Rhys Headley, Assistant Head of School, GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa says, “This uncertainty requires schools to be dynamic. As a school that plans for every eventuality, we collect regular assessment data and evidence of work showing that our students are working at a specified grade. The grades that we award students are based on the criteria set by the exam boards. Evidence and data used to support Centre Assessed Grades come in many forms, including internal exams which are generally in the form of unseen past exam papers sat in exam conditions, which are then marked using mark schemes provided by the exam boards.”

Headley adds, “We are extremely lucky, as many of our staff are examiners for exam boards and are therefore confident in ensuring all grades are awarded fairly. This, alongside strict moderation, provides an extremely robust system for awarding GCSE and A-level grades. It must also be noted that the exam boards provide regular checks to ensure schools are compliant.”

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