Grades crisis 'shows Gove folly in ditching coursework'

Shadow education secretary criticises Gove legacy and calls on DfE to announce GCSE and A-level plans for 2021

kate green

Last month’s GCSE and A-Level grading crisis showed how schools are now facing the consequences of former education secretary Michael Gove’s “retrogressive step” in largely scrapping coursework, according to Labour’s Kate Green.

The shadow education secretary was speaking on a private "policy panel" at Labour’s online conference today when, Tes understands, she highlighted the importance of gathering data throughout this academic year in case exams are cancelled again next year.

And she warned that schools should be “very worried” that the government does not have a good plan in place for staging next summer’s A levels and GCSEs in the wake of Covid-19.

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Ms Green said: “I think it was a retrogressive step when Gove scrapped the modular approach to coursework and the AS levels.

“We really saw the consequences last month when, having put all the eggs in the basket of one single final assessment, it wasn’t possible to run that assessment fairly – and you could see the folly of taking that approach.”

Tes understands Ms Green spoke about the opportunity in Wales for students to fall back on AS-level grades. In England, AS levels were decoupled from A levels as part of reforms made by Mr Gove, with AS results no longer counting towards A-level grades.

Ms Green added: “We have to be very worried that the government doesn’t have a very good plan for 2021.

"Labour has already said we think exams need to be pushed back a bit to June or even early July and if that’s going to happen you would need to start planning now because you’d need to find the markers and work out how you were going to re-shape the curriculum. You would need to make sure that the universities and colleges could cope with a later exams date.

“We’ve all got to be prepared for the fact that it’s going to be at least a possibility that those exams can’t take place next summer if there’s a further round of lockdowns, and even if they do, that these students have suffered quite a lot of disruption on the way and so there are going to be questions of fairness again.

“And this is again where I think gathering data throughout the year about students’ performance in a structured way is going to be helpful if we find that, come next summer, it’s not possible to run exams in the way you would in normal times. The government says it’s going to come forward with some sort of announcement in October. I really don’t know why it’s taking them so long. Schools and students need certainty now. You can’t just start planning your school year half-way through the first of only three terms.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Exams and assessments are the best and fairest way of judging students’ performance. We expect exams to take place next year and are working with Ofqual and the exam boards on our approach, recognising that students will have experienced considerable disruption to their education in the last academic year.

“There are a range of measures proposed by Ofqual following a public consultation, including a possible short delay to the exam timetable and subject-specific changes to reduce pressure on teaching time. We will continue to work with school and college stakeholders, Ofqual and the exam boards, to ensure that exams in 2021 are fair.”


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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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