Teachers call for GCSE probe to ensure fair 2021 grades

An NEU petition urging the government to act to ensure next year's exams are graded fairly has gathered over 25k signatures in 24 hours

Claudia Civinini

GCSE exams

Teachers are calling for a review and a new teacher-assessed grading model to be developed so pupils taking GCSEs and A levels in 2021 are "treated fairly."

A petition launched by the National Education Union, which has gathered over 25,000 signatures in 24 hours, also calls on the government to launch an independent review into the methods used to award this year's exam results.

The probe would be a "first step towards regaining the trust of the profession", according to Mary Bousted, the NEU's joint general secretary.


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"This government has no one but itself to blame. The weaknesses in a system of its own creation have been left horribly exposed," said Dr Bousted.

"What is needed is nothing short of an independent review into what went wrong, and a determination to ensure it never happens again. That would be a big step towards regaining the trust of parents and the profession," she added.

The petition urges the government to:

  • Reduce the overall content assessed in the 2021 GCSE and A-level exams to allow for variation in lost learning time.
  • Work with the profession to develop a robust national system of moderated centre-assessed grades (CAGs) in case there is further disruption to exams next summer due to Covid-19.
  • Commission a thorough, independent review into assessment methods used to award GCSE and A-level qualifications in England, along the lines announced by the Scottish government.

It reads: "The government has a duty of care to the nation’s children and young people. In its management of this year’s A-level grading process, the government failed in this duty.

"Ministers showed a lack of trust in teachers and leaders, whose assessments of their students’ potential were overwhelmingly discarded in favour of an Ofqual algorithm combined with historic patterns of grades in schools and colleges. Grades were initially awarded, for the vast majority of students, with no reference to, or evidence of, their individual achievements. Young people do not deserve to be treated as numbers in an algorithm.

"This must never happen again. For students due to sit A-level and GCSE exams in 2021 – young people who have already suffered so much due to the Coronavirus pandemic – it is vital that the government takes urgent steps to ensure they are treated fairly and that none are disadvantaged.”

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