GCSEs 2021: Using mocks 'would compound disadvantage'

Poorer pupils would be harder hit by use of mock exams for next summer's GCSEs and A Levels, experts warn
3rd November 2020, 4:07pm


GCSEs 2021: Using mocks 'would compound disadvantage'

Learning For Exams

Using mock exams in the event that GCSEs and A levels cannot go ahead will further disadvantage poorer pupils, social mobility experts have warned.

In a House of Commons' Education Select Committee discussion today about the under-attainment of white working-class pupils, experts said that using mock exams as a "back up" in 2021 would compound disadvantage.

The idea of using mock grades has been floated by the Ofqual chief in the event that students cannot sit exams.

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But today, Sammy Wright, the Social Mobility Commission lead on schools and higher education, said that a well-planned system of teacher-assessment would be the best option for disadvantaged pupils next year.

He said: "One of the suggestions that has come out is the use of some mock exams as a back-up, and I just want to make the point really really strongly, that if we use mock exams as a back up we're effectively giving them [poorer pupils] more disadvantage, because we haven't given them the time to catch up on all that they've missed.

"If their grade is based on what they do in January, then that's going to compound the disadvantage."

A better way forward would be "to trust the teacher assessment system", he said.

He added: "We need to ask teachers to base it on mocks, sure, but they need to give a centre-assessed grade as a judgement and that judgement then needs to be moderated effectively, statistically adjusted if need be, but done so in a way...that is planned carefully."

Also speaking at the committee was the head of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Henri Murison, who raised doubts about exams going ahead next year.

He said: "The National Tutoring Programme in its current form alone is not going to solve the problem - we need to get a solution to the devices issue to make sure that we don't see the disadvantage gap growing even more.

"And I would very strongly urge that because of the concentration of many of the school closures in parts of the country that also have these problems, that you may see real issues in the exam system if we do carry on as has been proposed."

"Because you're going to be measuring attainment through an end-stage assessment for people who've been at school for wildly different periods of time and so we've made the case strongly that we may need to consider teacher assessment this year but an organised and ruly version, because my fear otherwise is we'll end up in the new year as we approach exams having to cancel them, and having no time to put in place something suitably rigorous."

In October, Ofqual chief regulator Dame Glenys Stacey had said that contingency papers or mock exams could be part of a "plan B" if exams did not go ahead.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she said: "There is work in hand to look at contingency plans if you like - we're working with the department and others on that and we need to look at plans for if the individual can't take an exam or there is a local regional lockdown."

Asked whether the government would be organising invigilated mock exams as part of a plan B, she said: "Certainly contingency papers if you like, sitting an exam paper ahead of the ordinary exam season, is an option we're looking at."

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