GCSEs 2021: Plan for teacher grades but no algorithms

Gavin Williamson sets out plan for A levels and GCSEs following cancellation of summer exams

Catherine Lough

Coronavirus: A key meeting on reopening schools, due to be held today, has been postponed, Tes understands

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has indicated that teacher-assessed grades will be used for the second year in a row but without an algorithm in 2021.

Mr Wiliamson told MPs that the government had “learned lessons” on exams.

“Last year, all four nations of the United Kingdom found their arrangements for awarding grades did not deliver what they needed, with the impact felt painfully by students and their parents,” he said. 

“Although exams are the fairest way we have of assessing what a student knows, the impact of this pandemic now means that it is not possible to have these exams this year.

“I can confirm that GCSEs, A levels and AS-level exams will not go ahead this summer. This year, we’re going to put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms.

“The department and Ofqual had already worked up a range of contingency options. While the details will need to be fine tuned in consultation with Ofqual, the exam boards, and teaching representative organisations, I can confirm now that I wish to use a form of teacher-assessed grades, with training and support provided to ensure these are awarded fairly and consistently across the country.”

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The education secretary also said there would be a “further detailed consultation by Ofqual” that will begin next week and last for a fortnight.

“It’s very important that we do get feedback from the sector in order to be able to ensure that the details of this policy are properly understood and work best not just for schools and colleges but, most importantly, for those who are receiving the grades,” Mr Williamson added.

The news follows the announcement from prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday that A levels and GCSEs this year would be cancelled.

Mr Williamson said he would consider releasing GCSE and A-level grades earlier than the usual results day to leave more time for appeals, resits and university admissions.

“It is something I have already raised in discussions with Ofqual,” he said. “We obviously have to make that judgement call in line with the whole system and we don’t want the whole system of awarding to be dictated by the date where youngsters get their grades.

“But it will be one of those issues that are in active consideration because…it gives students more time if there is a need for appeals and gives them more time to make the best choices for them and their future.”

Headteachers have responded to the news questioning why an “off the shelf plan B” for exams is not already in place.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, described the situation as “frustrating”, given that the union had repeatedly called on both the government and Ofqual to prepare contingency plans if GCSEs and A levels could not go ahead.

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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