WATCH: Change GCSEs or cancel them, say heads

Heads fear Welsh students given CAGs will gain university places over 'equally able' North of England students sitting exams
2nd December 2020, 2:08pm

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WATCH: Change GCSEs or cancel them, say heads

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/watch-change-gcses-or-cancel-them-say-heads
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Headteachers are calling for next year's exams to be cancelled "unless significant adaptations are made to ensure a level playing field".

Plans to mitigate Covid disruption to exams are expected to be announced by the Department for Education imminently and could include asterisks on exam certificates (to denote disruption suffered by candidates) as well as more generous grading and letting candidates see exam material in advance.

But heads in the North East says a return to centre-assessed grades may be the only way forward in order to address the "huge regional variations within England in terms of disruption to students education".


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Steve Wilson, headteacher of Whitley Bay High School, where most of the Year 11 pupils and many Year 13 pupils have already had to self-isolate at least once this term, has written to exam regulator Ofqual highlighting his concerns.

In a letter to Ofqual chief Dame Glenys Stacey, he said: "We will be at a distinct disadvantage compared to other schools around the country, where no or few positive cases have been identified and small numbers of students have had to self-isolate.

"The suggestion, that exams, as they are currently planned, will be a level playing field for all students, is simply not correct. They are not fit for purpose for a large number of students and we would suggest the exam arrangements will be discriminatory for many students, unless significant adaptations are made."

With reference to the Welsh government's decision to cancel exams next year, he added: "We will inevitably have a situation where Welsh students, given CAGs, will be given a university place at the expense of an equal-ability North of England student with exam grades."

Mr Wilson, a national leader in education, who said he was speaking on behalf of other heads in Tyneside, told Tes: "Dame Glenys herself has written back to me in quite a lot of detail acknowledging all the points I make.

"She and Ofqual are saying 'We are aware of the issues you are raising and we are looking at very creative solutions to try and remedy those problems'. I've got to say having received that letter I feel more positive about the way forward than I did before, but obviously, we still haven't had any announcement about the summer exams yet."

Mr Wilson said he was against the idea of using asterisks against the grades of students whose education had been disrupted.

He said measures should be put in place to make sure students get the grades they actually deserve in the first place.

Ofqual has been contacted for comment.

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