Tes FE People of the Year: Andy Burnham

In the summer, Manchester mayor Andy Burnham went toe to toe against Ofqual on exam results
4th January 2021, 10:28am
Julia Belgutay

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Tes FE People of the Year: Andy Burnham

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/tes-fe-people-year-andy-burnham
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Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham spent plenty of time in the spotlight this year. His work during the coronavirus lockdown saw him in front of TV cameras almost on a daily basis - but it is not that work that led to him being recognised as one of the Tes FE People of the Year in 2020.

While the outcry that followed the cancellation of exams and the use of the now-infamous algorithm dominated public discourse for weeks, the way in which colleges and their students were affected got a lot less attention.


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Burnham used his clout to put the spotlight on the fact that larger centres, many of them colleges, saw more of their students graded down, and even threatened Ofqual with a legal challenge. Having met with college principals in the region, Burnham said he had heard a "consistent account of colleges not receiving the grades that they had submitted for their students and experiencing a significant downgrading of marks compared to previous years".

He added: "But worse, I heard stories of young people, who have already suffered a terrible year, having yet another injustice done to them. One college head spoke of 1,600 students being marked down and just 10 being marked up. Another spoke of young people being given a fail for exams they didn't even have the opportunity to sit."

Burnham said it was clear to him that the system used to award A levels this year was "inherently biased against larger educational institutions".

A U-turn by the government saw students awarded their centre-assessed grades and Burnham's legal challenge never had to become a reality. But in a discussion that was, like so many, so focused on schools, he flew the flag for further education - rightly making him one of our People of the Year in FE.

 

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