Grades U-turn lesson for the DfE: 'Listen to teachers'

Teachers' leader calls for a review of the system and an absolute assurance that this situation won't happen again

John Roberts

GCSE and A-level results: Mary Bousted, of the NEU teaching union, has said the DfE should have listened to teachers sooner over the grading controversy

A teaching union leader has told the Department for Education to listen to teachers in future after a major U-turn on GCSE and A-level results was announced today.

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, has also called for a “careful and systematic review” after it was announced that the government would be allowing students to receive the centre-assessed grades from their teachers for both A levels and GCSEs this year.

The union leader said: "[Education secretary] Gavin Williamson has, finally, done the right thing. The pity is that he has done so having exhausted all other options. Students and their teachers have endured days of completely unnecessary stress and worry.

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"For many students, this announcement will generate further uncertainty if they have been rejected from their first-choice course, and university, on the basis of the inaccurate and unjust Ofqual awarding process. 

"One of many lessons for government to learn from this sorry saga is to listen to the profession. The Department for Education's determination to put all eggs in one basket through a single set of summer exams has come back to haunt them. It is very much a disaster of their own making.

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"This is a shameful episode. It must never happen again. The U-turn in Scotland includes a long-term review of the assessment methods used to award qualifications, including the possibility of more coursework and systematic, moderated teacher assessment, and it is critical that the same occurs in England.   

"We not only need a careful and systematic review, but an absolute assurance to next year's GCSE and A-level students that this cannot and will not happen again." 

This afternoon Ofqual announced that GCSE and A-level candidates will be awarded grades assessed by their teachers.

This marked a major U-turn from Mr Williamson’s previous declaration that the use of teacher assessment would "degrade every single exam result".

The U-turn for English schools follows moves by governments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in deciding to use teacher-assessed grades.

Following the cancellation of exams because of the coronavirus, results were set to be awarded through an Ofqual standardation process, using grades submitted by teachers along with schools' historical performance data, students' prior attainment and a rank order of students by grade and subject.

However, this process proved to be controversial at A level after it emerged that 39 per cent of the centre-assessed grades submitted by schools had been moderated down.

And it resulted in private schools seeing a rise in their proportion of A and A* grades that was more than double the increase for any type of state school. 


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John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts is North of England reporter for Tes

Find me on Twitter @JohnGRoberts

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