GCSEs 2021: Secrecy over DfE Covid disruption advice

Group of experts advising on learning loss want to be able to talk freely without meetings being public, says Nick Gibb
8th December 2020, 1:30pm

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GCSEs 2021: Secrecy over DfE Covid disruption advice

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/gcses-2021-secrecy-over-dfe-covid-disruption-advice
Gcses & A Levels 2021: Secrecy Over Dfe Coronavirus Disruption Advice

Advice from a new expert group being set up to advise the Department for Education on regional variations in learning loss ahead of next year's GCSEs and A levels will not be made public, MPs heard today.

Schools minister Nick Gibb was speaking to MPs on the Commons Education Select Committee when he said the group of experts, which will meet in the spring, would want to have "full and frank discussions" and to be able to "give advice freely" without the meeting being made public.


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The expert group is being set up after sustained pressure from headteachers and others concerned that their students will not be taking exams on a level playing field because of the variation in disruption to schools in different parts of the country caused by the pandemic.

Coronavirus and GCSEs: Fears over different levels of lost learning

Chair of the committee Robert Halfon asked Mr Gibb: "Given the monumental decisions being made by the department and the profound effect on the lives of children, do you not agree that there should be a transparent way of arriving at those decisions?"

Mr Gibb said the main decisions to deal with differential learning had already been taken and included advanced notice and exam aids.

Mr Halfon also asked the minister: "Are you going to make sure that all the minutes, conclusions, recommendations are transparent as they happen?"

Mr Gibb said: "This is an advisory group to the secretary of state. It's not an independent commission reporting publicly. It is an advisory group of experts who want to be able to give advice freely to the secretary of state and, upon that advice, he will then make decisions that will then be published."

Mr Halfon mentioned that the recovery advisory group set up to advise the DfE on a response to the coronavirus pandemic had been asked to sign gagging orders.

He said: "Non-disclosure was also an issue when it came to admitting experts to the team that was appointed to advise on the ill-fated [exam grading] algorithm. Surely if you don't make it transparent as it happens, you can lead to some of the problems that we had with Ofqual and examinations that wasn't properly open to public scrutiny in terms of the algorithm?"

Mr Gibb replied: "This particular group is a group of experts who will want to be able to have a full and frank discussion…if you're asking experts to give up their time and give advice to the secretary of state, you need to give them the space to be able to do that without each of their meetings being a public meeting." 

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