25 February 2021


Ofqual today announced the outcome of the consultation on arrangements for regulated qualifications in 2021.

We are pleased to see that results will be based  on teachers’ judgements about their students’ performance - we believe that this is the fairest solution.NSEAD’s suggestions regarding external moderation, advice for centres and recommendations that VTQs also be based on teacher judgementsare reflected in the decisions outlined by Ofqual today.

We recognise that the dates for GCSE and A level results  will place pressure on centres, but feel that this is necessary if centres are to have the maximum amount of time available for teaching before submission of grades on 18 June and allowing sufficient time for a robust appeals process to be completed by 18 August, avoiding the difficulties for UCAS and student admissions that we saw last summer.

Art and Design will be subject to the same arrangements for sampling as all other subjects:

  • Random sampling of  assessment evidence by experts from the examination boards for a cross section of centres
  • Target sampling of centres where there may be reasons for review: eg new centres; centres  where there has been cause for concern in previous years; those with unusually high or low entries and grades that flag the need for investigation.

For Art and Design examinations a system of  sampling by visiting experts ( moderators) is entirely familiar. The key difference this year is that not all centres will receive a visit, but should behave as if they might.

Subject specific guidance to support teachers in their judgements, and general guidance for centres will be provided following a two week technical consultation. It is expected that final arrangements, subject specific detail and guidance will be finalised before the end of March.

The full set of documents and information from Ofqual and the DFE are as follows:

Ofqual have published the Acting Chief Regulator’s response to a direction letter from the Secretary of State for Education about the arrangements for regulated qualifications in 2021. They have also published an article by Simon Lebus setting out the details of the announcement.

The general qualifications and vocational and technical qualifications documents can be found below. They include the analysis of the consultation responses, Ofqual’s decisions documents and easy-read infographics:

Consultation on how GCSE, AS and A level grades should be awarded in summer 2021

Consultation on alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021


Details of the two technical consultations to seek views on the regulatory framework that will put today’s policy decisions into effect:

GCSE, AS and A level Technical Consultation: the General Qualifications Alternative Awarding Framework. This will also include two draft information documents: information for heads of centre on the submission of teacher assessed grades and information for centres about making objective judgements. The consultation will close on 11 March 2021.

Regulatory arrangements for the awarding of vocational and technical and other general qualifications in 2020-2021. The consultation will close on 11 March 2021. This includes the draft information for centres about making objective judgements.


You can find the Department for Education’s publications here.




29 January 2021


NSEAD response to Ofqual consultation


The NSEAD Special Interest Group for Examinations responds to the consultation on arrangements for the summer series of examinations.

We agree that it is important that students completing their studies in 2021 receive a valid qualification that clearly reflects what a student knows,understands and can do, and they must be widely understood and respected.We agree that the results they receive through the alternative approach must be credible and meaningful.

We welcome recognition by Ofqual that the impact of the pandemic varies between regions, between schools and colleges within a region, and from student to student according to their personal circumstances.

We also believe that alternative arrangements for assessment must as far as possible make sure grades are valid and consistent.

We are extremely concerned that students completing assessments this year will be awarded grades to indicate their demonstrated knowledge, understanding and skills.with grades that will be indistinguishable from grades issued by exam boards in other years.We do not believe that this is achievable in our subject, which requires students to acquire an increasing depth and proficiency through practice. For the majority of students access tot he necessary specialist resources has been severely limited and uneven. We do not see how it is possible to claim that grades achieved this year will be comparable with those awarded in other years. 

Read the full response here

6 January 4.30pm


This afternoon the  Secretary of State for Education for Education in England confirmed arrangements for English schools in the House of Commons. 

The Minister confirmed that English schools would now follow Scotland and Wales with summer series examinations cancelled and replaced with teacher assessments. SATs for primary pupils are cancelled. January examinations for technical and vocational qualifications should continue as planned if school and college leaders think it right to do so.

Gavin Williamson insisted that schools have not suddenly become unsafe places, however it is the dramatic reduction in numbers on site that allows him to say this. NSEAD does not accept that this was the case on Monday, when the Government were insisting that it was safe for all schools and colleges to open to all pupils.

We know that the coming weeks will bring enormous challenges for our members. Many of you are working on site, teaching remotely from your classrooms and supervising groups of key worker and vulnerable pupils. There is an expectation of a high quality remote provision with a high proportion of 'live' online lessons. Arrangments for teacher assessment and the mechanisms to ensure that they are fair and consistent remain unclear. 

Education Minister Peter Weir has confirmed that examinations will also be cancelled for students in Northern Ireland.

6 January 11am


Late yesterday evening, the DFE issued a statement advising schools and colleges that they could make a local decision about whether to continue with vocational and technical exams this month. Many of our members had practical assessments for BTEC Art and Design scheduled to take place between the 4th and 15th January. 

A DfE spokesperson said:

“In light of the evolving public health measures, schools and colleges can continue with the vocational and technical exams that are due to take place in January, where they judge it right to do so.

“We understand this is a difficult time but we want to support schools and colleges whose students have worked hard to prepare for assessments and exams where necessary. This may be particularly important for VTQs which require a ‘license to practice’ which can only be fulfilled through practical assessment, such as an electrician.”

“Schools and colleges have already implemented extensive protective measures to make them as safe as possible. We will continue to work with Ofqual, awarding organisations and other stakeholders to discuss the next steps and provide more detail on the way forward, including ensuring other students have a way to progress with as little disruption as possible.”


News reports focus on the reversal of the DFE’s position, but the statement from Simon Lebus, Interim Chief Regulator, Ofqualtoday emphasises the fact that the government has directed that exams can and should still go ahead.

“The government has announced that schools and colleges can continue with the vocational and technical exams due to take place in January where it is right to do so. This may be particularly important for vocational and technical qualifications which require a ‘licence to practise’, which can only be fulfilled through practical assessment.”


3 December

Summer 2021 Examinations assessments

The measures announced by the DFE for the summer 2021 assessments for English schools aim to level the field for candidates taking examinations in 2021. Ofqual have already announced that Art and Design candidates for GCSE and A level will be assessed on the basis of a single coursework unit, a move which NSEAD has welcomed. The announcement that grading will be at more generous levels in line with the 2020 series is also welcomed, but will not in itself ensure fair assessment for students who have not been taught in their classrooms or for individual students that have missed out on coursework.

Arrangements across the four nations have been determined on a unilateral basis.  Whilst there is a clearly a need to address regional differences, it is disappointing that a coherent approach could not be agreed. The comparability of qualifications awarded in  2021 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will inevitably be questioned, and this can only disadvantage students.

In all four nations, our subject, the potential for unfair disadvantage for students who have had limited access to studios and classrooms is a real concern. Access to space, materials and equipment continues to vary widely according to local and individual circumstances. NSEAD calls on all Governments, regulatory authorities and awarding bodies to work together to address the impact of differential learning, and ensure that all possible measures are taken to ensure that the future potential of our students is not determined by local decisions that are beyond their control.

We note that today’s guidance from the DFE provides for sadditional "backup" exams - to be held in July - to give students a second chance to sit a paper if they have to miss main exams or assessments due to illness or self-isolation. It is not clear whether any provision will be made for Art and Design students who will not sit an exam paper, but may have missed vital coursework time for the component that will be put forward as their final assessment.

We call on the Expert Group set up by the DFE, the National Qualifications 2021 Group for Scotland, and the Design and Delivery Advisory Group for Wales to give careful consideration to the impact of uneven access to studio resources, and alternative arrangments for moderation.

We welcome the detailed subject guidance being provided for teachers in Scotland by the SQA and hope that the same level of support will be available for teachers in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

updated information is as follows:

From Ofqual: "We have published Dame Glenys Stacey’s response to a letter from the Secretary of State for Education about the arrangements for regulated qualifications in 2021. Today’s announcements include Ofqual’s decision on the grading of GCSE, AS and A level qualifications, details of adaptations that will be made to exams next summer and confirmation of the Department for Education’s package of contingencies to make sure as many students as possible can take exams and assessments and receive a grade. The letter also sets out our expectations for vocational and technical qualifications. We have also published an article setting out the details of announcement."

They have also published two research reports:


Four Nations

Monitoring and Guidance

England: Expert Group set up by the DFE any impact of differential learning on pupils who have been disproportionately impacted. We do not yet know who sits on this group.

Northern Ireland: The Department for Education are overseeing all arrangements.

Scotland: The National Qualifications 2021 Group is meeting weekly to consider qualifications arrangements in the 2020-21 session. This group draws its membership from the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES), Colleges Scotland, Education Scotland, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), School Leaders Scotland (SLS), the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the Scottish Government. 

SQA is supporting National 5 certification by publishing subject specific guidance. In addition, SQA will also start to publish assessment resources this week. 

Wales: The Design and Delivery Advisory Group of school head teachers and college principals this will include key considerations such as the range of assessment, the appeals process and arrangements for private candidates.

Assessment arrangements

England: GCSE and A level Assessment to be portfolio only. 

NI - Assessment of Component one only, under controlled conditions
Scotland - assessed using an alternative certification approach, based on teacher and lecturer judgement. Higher and Advanced Higher exams will be delayed by two weeks.

Wales -  teacher-managed assessments. Non examination assessments (NEA) will continue to be included in GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2020-2021.


England: Exam boards are permitted to carry out moderation by photographic and/or digital portfolio.

Northern Ireland: endorsements will be used in lieu of visiting moderation/examination
Wales: centre-based outcomes underpinned by a model of external verification to provide consistency.

.Further infomation for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales



17th August

The Welsh Government has announced this afternoon that both A-level and GCSE students will be awarded the grades predicted by their teachers. A total of 42% of A-level grades predicted by teachers had been lowered. The change also affects AS-levels, skills challenge certificates and the Welsh Baccalaureate. Students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep them.

GCSE results in NI will be solely based on grades provided by teachers, the education minister has said. Schools in Northern Ireland, along with schools in Wales and England, had been asked to give predicted grades but then other data was used by CCEA (CCEA is the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment) to standardise the results. Peter Weir, Education Minister, said GCSEs taken with exams body CCEA - which provides about 97% of GCSE exams in Northern Ireland - would be covered by the decision.

16 August

On 15 August (11am). Ofqual defined what a 'valid mock exam' would look like and that centre assessed grades could be used as a last resort. Late into the evening this announcement was withdrawn. Which assessment mechanisms Ofqual will se remains to be seen. 

NSEAD concerns regarding the awarding of GCSE, AS & A levels, and vocational qualifications in summer 2020

14 August 

On behalf of our members NSEAD has written to Ofqual to express our  deep concerns about the results announced yesterday and the impact of the standardisation model. We also register our objections to proposals by the DFE to allow appeals based on student performance in mock examinations. Read the full letter here

NSEAD response to school and examination disruption

 12 August

This year’s examination process has shown a fractured nation-wide landscape – where neither teachers’ expertise nor children’s interests have steered policy makers. Instead, the quest to uphold notional ‘national standards’ has revealed an examination system with gaping gaps in equity and fairness. Read more here


NSEAD response to Ofqual’s Publication of proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2021

4 August 2020

We welcome the publication yesterday of proposed changes to assessment for 2021, giving teachers the information they need as they prepare for the return of all students to schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in September. We recognise the difficulty of making these decisions  in the context of  ongoing and future public health concerns. We understand the need for Ofqual to take more time to consult with the DFE and authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland before making a decision regarding possible delays to the exam timetable.

Ofqual have listened to the feedback that we gave on behalf of our members and we are pleased to see that much of what is proposed for Art and Design is in line with our recommendations. We agree that the removal of the externally set task, so assessment is by portfolio only is in the best interests of students at a time when attendance in centres is likely to be disrupted. 

We appreciate the flexibility around moderation, allowing but not requiring exam boards to carry out moderation by photographic and/or digital portfolio.

It is disappointing that in the equalities impact assessment it has not been possible to identify mitigations to reduce the disadvantage caused to particular groups by the Covid-19 pandemic. We remain concerned that shielding students, disabled students, those with economic disadvantage and students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups will continue to be disproportionately affected. However, we know that there is no perfect solution -  as professionals we must work together to support our young people. 

The coming year will be challenging for teachers and students, and NSEAD will continue to support members to deliver the highest standards of art and design education possible. 


Exam SIG response to Ofqual’s consultation on proposed changes to the assessment of GCSEs, AS and A levels in 2021

15 July 2020

With regard to the proposal that assessment should be 100% NEA – portfolio only, we believe that, on balance, this is the fairest way to proceed to benefit most students at GCSe, AS and A’ level. However, we would further suggest that the portfolio submission be limited to one complete project at GCSE, providing evidence of covering all four assessment objectives, selected from work undertaken during the course. This is to recognise that some students will have had very different opportunities for continuing art and design study at home during lockdown, where some may have already produced a substantial range of evidence and others very little.

With regard to permitting exam boards to carry out moderation by photographic / digital portfolio, we believe that conditions for moderation by visiting moderators can be made safe in schools, and that photographic/digital moderation should only happen as a last resort, for example if a school was in an area where a local lockdown was in force.

Digital or photographic representation of non-digitally created work can never replace seeing the work physically, especially for 3D and textile work, and the quality of the portfolio inevitably reflects the skill of the photographer, sometimes to the detriment of the work itself.

If digital or photographic moderation is to go ahead we ask that there is a common format to be used for the portfolio, for example, presented in PowerPoint, a short video - sketchbook pages in order of the portfolio and recording the outcomes or as a series of photographs and that there is a limit set as to the amount of digital images/length of video that can be included. This is because some schools may struggle to store high quantities of high resolution images on their IT systems, which could disadvantage some students. We would also ask for there to be clear guidance for teachers in supporting their students when selecting work for digital assessment and that the expectation is that teachers mark the work as a digital submission, so that teacher and moderator are seeing the work in the same way.

We do not support possible arrangements for digital/ photographic moderation next year setting a precedent for moderation procedures beyond 2021.

We have concerns that students and art and design teachers in some schools are likely to continue to have restricted access to specialist facilities when schools restart in September. This could be particularly problematic for those students who are part way through courses in certain areas of study, such as 3D Design, Textiles or for those working within areas of Fine Art such as sculpture and printmaking. We ask that the exam boards consider ways in which special consideration can be given to students and centres that find themselves in this position.

We support the proposal to push back the date for the 2021 exams and hope that that would include an extension to the date when the coursework marks must be submitted to the exam boards for art and design exams.



Exam SIG response to Ofqual’s consultation on an additional GCSE, AS and A level exam series in autumn 2020 - proposals for an additional exam series in autumn 2020 in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

3 June 2020


We are very encouraged by the full and thorough consideration given by Ofqual to the unique position of art and design as the only NEA subject at GCSE, AS and A’ level and by its ambition to ensure that art and design students have equality of opportunity with other subjects by making provision for assessment in an autumn series of exams when it is proposed that in general, NEA components will not form part of the assessment process.

Question: To what extent do you agree or disagree that grades for GCSE, AS and A level art and design awarded in the autumn should be based on a new task completed under supervised conditions? 

We fully support the proposal that the exam boards should provide a new task to be set under supervised conditions in an autumn series. We view this as being fairest for all candidates. Some students may have had the opportunity to continue working on their preparatory studies during the lockdown period but many will not and some centre assessment grades may have taken into account some or all of the preparation for the summer series ESA tasks, depending on the timing of the exams in individual centres prior to school closures on 20 March. 

If the exam boards set a new task a clear timetable can be set by centres and all candidates will have a set, equable timeframe to work within.

Question: To what extent do you agree or disagree that any new task for GCSE, AS and A level art and design should be set and marked by the exam board? 

As introducing an autumn series of examinations is done under exceptional circumstances we are happy to endorse the arrangement that requires the exam boards to set and mark the candidates’ work. Teachers will, inevitably, be busy working with their students, who will have missed months of face to face contact and it is unlikely that schools will be happy to release them to moderate the ESA. There will be little time for the exam boards to recruit, train and deploy moderators, given the tight timescale.

We would not expect there to be high numbers of candidates in an autumn series of exams, however the marking and internal standardisation process takes time and, as teachers will have their full teaching commitment during the autumn term, this proposal will alleviate additional pressure, as well as being the most cost effective solution for the exam boards.

Do you have any comments on our proposed approach to the assessment of GCSE, AS and A level art and design in the autumn 2020 series?

Whilst we are happy to support the notion of an exam board set and marked task in these exceptional circumstances we firmly believe that teachers play a very important role in the assessment of art and design and that the move proposed by Ofqual is seen as a temporary arrangement only, not to set a precedent for future years. When centres are required to send work into the exam boards for assessment it naturally impacts on the range and scale of the work set by centres and undertaken by students, which is potentially very detrimental to the breadth of the subject and the experience of the students.

We fully support Ofqual’s ambition to promote equality and fairness so that disadvantaged students are not disproportionately affected by the assessment arrangements during this exceptional year.


The NSEAD Special Interest Group Response to Ofqual's Extraordinary Consultation Arrangements for Centre Assessment of Grades

29 April 2020

On awarding grades; 

  • We are pleased that teacher judgment informed by evidence of students’ performance during their courses of study will provide the basis of awarding grades this year. We believe that teachers of art and design are well placed to do this fairly as we are the only subject that is fully Non-Exam Assessment and are experienced at providing  a rank order of students’ grades. However, we would like to see a cut-off date for work to be considered for when awarding grades to align with the order to close schools on March 23rd, as it is impossible to authenticate any work that has been completed beyond this date. This will ensure a fair playing field as some students will have had no access to their work or the facilities and materials needed to continue their art and design work during lockdown, and indeed there is no mechanism for schools to collect, and for teachers to review, work undertaken after this date.


  • In the case of private candidates we are in agreement that their grades should be calculated where they are linked to a centre and where the Head of Centre can verify that centre assessment grades and a place in the rank order can properly be submitted.


  • We believe that national and international candidates entering for qualifications covered by Ofqual’s regulatory framework should be treated in the same way and awarded grades in line with the new guidance.


On the process of standardising centre assessment grades; 

  • Our subject in not generalisable and subject specific nuances are not considered in the consultation document. We believe that there is the need to consider the authenticity of art and design and would like to see the removal of the word ‘common’ in reference to the standardisation process across subjects.


On the grounds for appealing final grades;

  • We believe that any appeals against final grading must be centre led and that it will be impractical for student-direct grievances to be considered where no physical art work can be reviewed.
  • We recommend that all awarding bodies are required to build in a mechanism to mitigate against appeals and include manual checks if algorithms used to calculate grades throw up anomalies.
  • Although there is the possibility for students to take an exam in the Autumn term this is undesirable and potentially difficult for Art and Design.



We urge Ofqual and the awarding bodies to consider the impact that the Covid-19 closures is having on current Year 10 and Year 12 art and design students and the development of the portfolio units of the qualifications as a matter of urgency. This could be in the form of reducing the coursework presented or through the reduction of grade boundaries or ‘pass’ marks for next year’s cohort.

We also ask that they consider the opportunity for awarding bodies to develop capacity to standardise using a digital portfolio in the future, as social distancing measures likely to still be in place.


NSEAD Executive statements on the impact of Examinations 

31 March 2020

Since the announcement of disruption to the summer examination series, NSEAD – the professional body for art, craft and design education – has called for subject-specific guidance to support schools, colleges and centres. We ask that the regulating authorities consider the unique assessment and moderation needs of art and design qualifications. 

Without a written examination, art and design specialists have no evidence of written drafts that have been marked, other than practical Component 1 and mock examination evidence. Not all schools consistently allocate the recommended time and development/preparation opportunities to their students for the mock exam. All of which emphasises the need for a greater emphasis on teacher assessment based on more consistently detailed progress assessments.

The NSEAD Executive call for:

Clear guidance for Art and Design teachers about how to provide a ‘best assessment’ to inform exam boards of the award of calculated grades and how the process will be consistently applied for all students. On behalf of our members, we ask the following questions:

  1. A mix of data sources will be used to inform teacher assessments. We do not agree that mock examinations are a true or correct reflection of student potential, and strongly advise that teacher assessment, rather than exam marks, are considered. What evidence will contribute to calculated grades in Art and Design?
  2. There is a clear danger that educational inequality will grow as a result of school closures. Those students who were unable to submit coursework before and after school closures will be disadvantaged if teachers assess work beyond that point. We are aware of at least one examination board subject specialist giving advice that pupils should be able to continue working on portfolios for assessment. What is the ‘cut off’ point date teachers should use, after which further work cannot be included in assessments? 
  3. Is it the intention to allow students to complete work at home towards an examination, beyond the date on which schools closed. How are students supposed to deliver this to a school and are teachers supposed to safely take in such work?
  4. Prior attainment data based on KS2 SATS has proved an unreliable predictor for Art and Design performance. How will this be reflected in the calculated grades formula?
  5. The intention is that grades will be awarded fairly, without disadvantage to students. Will these assessments be externally moderated and if so, how will it be arranged?
  6. The aim is to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July. How will reviews of marking for centre assessed marks be managed within this timescale?
  7. Where school performance data over previous years is included in the calculation, students in schools that have made rapid progress this year will be disadvantaged. We have been assured that these grades will be indistinguishable from those provided in other years. How will this be achieved?
  8. There will be an option to sit exams early in the next academic year for any students who wish to – and students can also choose to sit exams next summer. How will this be managed for practical subjects that have a month of supervised preparation and 2-3 days of controlled examination conditions requiring access to specialist studios, equipment and resources?
  9. Lost studio time for a prolonged period will have a serious impact on the progress of the upcoming cohort of students. Inequalities regarding access to materials, tools and equipment as well as access to online provision, will further amplify inequalities. How will the impact on the 2021 series be managed?

We appreciate that all efforts are being made to deliver for learners at an exceptionally difficult time. The Scottish Qualifications Authority have announced that an estimate model will be subject to a reduced external verification, but details have not yet been finalised. Ofqual have assured us that regulators and exam boards will be discussing with teachers’ representatives before finalising the approach in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to ensure that it is as fair as possible. 

We have written to both Ofqual and the SQA to express our concern that the continued lack of information is causing high levels of stress and anxiety amongst teachers and students of Art and Design. On behalf of our members and students of Art and Design throughout the UK we ask that full consideration be given to their specific requirements, and that these are communicated clearly, without delay.