Gavin Williamson sets out how ‘fair exam grades’ will be determined this year

Gavin Williamson said the Government’s priority is to ‘make sure every student has the best possible chance to show what they know and can do’ (Picture: PA/NurPhoto)

Gavin Williamson has set out details on how GCSE and A-Level pupils will be graded this summer after exams were cancelled for the second year running.

The education secretary has promised students ‘a fair route’ to the next stages of life, saying no algorithm will be used and grades will ‘only be changed by human intervention’.

It comes after assessments descended into chaos last year, with thousands of students downgraded due to a controversial algorithm used to standardise teachers’ estimated grades.

Addressing the Commons this morning, Mr Williamson confirmed teachers would decide grades for pupils in England, adding that the ’end is in sight’ for Covid lockdown restrictions.

A-Level and GCSE pupils can be asked to sit ‘mini’ classroom tests marked by teachers but they will be optional. 

Other measures that will determine grades include coursework, mock exams and essays.

It is not compulsory for secondary school students to wear face masks in the classroom but it is ‘highly recommended’ until Easter.

A ‘robust’ testing regime will be in place in schools – something that is ‘critical in breaking the chains of infection’.

Two home tests a week will be available for primary pupils, with secondary and college students starting with three tests, then going down to two home tests a week.

Results days will be brought forward by a fortnight to the week of August 9 to allow pupils more time to appeal their grades before university terms begin.

Students at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form react after receiving their A-Level results in east London on August 13, 2020 (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)
Gavin Williamson issues a statement on the state of exams and education in the House of Commons, London (Picture: PA)

Mr Williamson said more than 100,000 responses to a Government consultation were ‘very carefully considered’, with the priority to ‘make sure every student has the best possible chance to show what they know and can do’.

He told MPs: ‘All our children and young people have paid a considerable price for the disruption of the past year. It has knocked their learning off track, it has put their friendships to one side and it has put some of the wonder of growing up on hold.

‘In short, it has caused enormous damage to what should have been a carefree and exciting part of growing up.

‘I am absolutely committed that with this programme of catch-up measures and the extra funds for tutoring, we can start to put this right – together with the measures we have set out for a fair and robust allocation of grades, young people will be able to look forward to the next stage of their lives with confidence.

‘Our approach in the face of the worst disruption to education since the Second World War has been to protect the progress of pupils and students.

‘Ultimately, this summer’s assessments will ensure fair routes to the next stages of education or the start of their career. That is our overall aim.’

The Department of Education has also confirmed a long-term plan will be developed to help children catch up.

Mr Williamson said: ‘Many children are going to need longer-term support to make up for lost learning.

‘We want families to know that there will be support for schools and for our children.

‘Sir Kevan Collins, our education recovery commissioner, will be working with parents, teachers and schools on a long-term plan to make sure pupils have the chance to make up their learning over the course of their education.’

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