GCSEs 2021: Why isn’t plan B ready yet, ask heads

DfE accused of ‘dereliction of duty’ in not having immediate contingency system in place following exam cancellation

no plan B for exams

Headteachers have expressed frustration that there is not “an off-the-shelf plan B ready to go” following the cancellation of exams this year.

Following the education secretary’s confirmation in the House of Commons today that GCSE and A-level exams will not go ahead this year, the Association of School and College Leaders said there were no immediate contingency plans – despite it “repeatedly” calling on the government and exam regulator Ofqual to prepare such plans, and “repeatedly” offering to work with them in preparing them.

Gavin Williamson said in Parliament today that the Department for Education and Ofqual had worked up "a range of contingency options", which needed to be "fine-tuned in consultation with Ofqual, the exam boards and teaching representative organisations".

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He said he wished to use "a form of teacher-assessed grades with training and support provided to ensure these are awarded fairly and consistently across the country".

But, in response, ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “The education secretary’s vague statement does not take us a great deal further forward other than to set out the broad parameters for the exam regulator Ofqual to work out a detailed plan.

“It is all very well to insist that there are contingencies in place and that it is now a case of fine-tuning. But what are these contingencies and how much fine-tuning is needed?

“It is the detail which is all important and which schools and colleges urgently need.

Mr Barton added: “It is frustrating that there is not an off-the-shelf plan B ready to go. We have repeatedly called on the government and the regulator to prepare such a plan in the event of exams being cancelled, and have repeatedly offered to work with them in doing so.

“However, ministers have been so busy insisting that exams will take place that they have failed to ensure that there is a contingency system which can be immediately rolled out. This is, frankly, a dereliction of duty.

“Ofqual now faces a race against time to come up with the ‘fine-tuning’ of a credible alternative to exams.

“There will be many different views on how this is best done.

“What any system must achieve is fairness and consistency. It must ensure pupils receive grades which reflect their efforts, recognise the different extent to which learning has been disrupted, and give reassurance that the same standard is applied across the country.

“There is also a real need for urgency about this because these young people, and their schools and colleges, need to know what they are planning for very soon.

“What the government and Ofqual must certainly avoid is a repeat of the shambles of last summer.”

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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