politics

Schools reopening: Boris Johnson promises parents teacher grading system for A Levels and GCSEs will be ‘fair’


BORIS Johnson today promised parents the new teacher grading system for A Levels and GCSEs this summer will be “fair” and “durable”.

The PM admitted it would have been better if students were able to take exams but that wasn’t possible because the pandemic forced school closures.

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Boris Johnson has vowed schools are safe to reopen

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Boris Johnson has vowed schools are safe to reopenCredit: Getty – Pool

He made the remarks after meeting Year 7 students during a visit to the Accrington Academy, in Lancashire, this morning.

He said: “In an ideal world you would not have taken kids out of school because of the pandemic, we wouldn’t have been forced to do this.

“And in an ideal world we’d be continuing with exams as you normally have them.

“The best place for kids is in the classroom, the best way to check on kids’ progress is with normal exams.

“But this is as good a compromise as we can come to. It will be fair, it will be durable and it’s the right way forward.”

The PM visited a school in Lancashire today

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The PM visited a school in Lancashire todayCredit: Getty – Pool
Schools are set to reopen on March 8

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Schools are set to reopen on March 8Credit: Reuters

It comes with teens set for a record haul of GCSEs and A levels this year with officials abandoning trying to control soaring grades.

Normal summer exams have been ditched and teachers will instead decide what results students get, with the help of voluntary “mini” subject tests.

Marks will not be pegged to previous years, meaning grade inflation could run wild if teachers are generous with their assessed grades.

But it comes as a government report reveals kids in every year have fallen hugely behind in maths and English during lockdown.

Schools minister Nick Gibb insisted this morning that the teacher assessment system was the only “fair” way to judge students this year.

And he confirmed pupils will receive their A-level results on August 10, with GCSE grades coming out two days later on August 12.

There will be a “very robust” appeal process, with students who are unhappy also having the option to sit exams in the Autumn.

Mr Gibb said: “We do think exams are the fairest system and we were determined to keep exams.

Sir Jon Coles says plans to give teachers autonomy over results risks a fiasco worse than last year's much-hated algorithm grades
Sir Jon Coles says plans to give teachers autonomy over results risks a fiasco worse than last year’s much-hated algorithm grades

It came as Sir Jon Coles, a former director general at the Department for Education, resigned from his post as Ofqual adviser after the Government failed to make mini exams mandatory for pupils.

Sir Jon, who joined exam watchdog Ofqual in November last year, last night warned that officials are risking a situation “much worse” than last year’s hated algorithm.

He also reportedly said students faced a “free for all” – and grades will be inflated to a point that results are ‘meaningless

He also reportedly said students faced a “free for all” – and grades will be inflated to a point that results are ‘meaningless’.

Normal summer exams have been ditched and teachers will instead decide what results students get, with the help of voluntary “mini” subject tests.

Results day is being brought forward to the week of August 9, so kids have longer to appeal grades before university begins.

GCSE students will receive their results two days later on August 12.

The PM said this morning while on a visit: “in an ideal world we’d be continuing with exams as you normally have them” but it just wasn’t possible this year and this was the best compromise.

He vowed: “It will be fair it will be durable and it’s the right way forward.”

Tory MP and Chair of the Select Committee, Robert Halfon worried that it would create a “wild west grading system” for kids.

He told TimesRadio this morning: “I worry that there was going to be, in essence, a wild west of an exam grading system because it’s going to vary from school to school.

“There’s very little standardisation. It’s just going to be based on what an individual child has been taught.”

He told Mr Williamson it may increase grade inflation into the system and that could damage kids’ life chances later down the line.

 

Mr Williamson told the Commons today there was widespread support for the approach they were setting out which was “fair and robust”.

He added: “Our priority is and has always been to make sure that every student has the best possible chance to show what they know and can do, enabling them to progress to the next stage of their education, training or employment.”

After schools have been shut for many pupils for weeks, he stressed “the end is very clearly in sight” and rates have come down enough to get all kids back from March 8 in England.

They will only be graded on the work they have done, and not the work they’ve missed.

Teachers can choose a range of work including tests, coursework and mock exams to help decide the grades.

And assessors will make sure the grades are “fair and consistent” across the board and any malpractice can be “rooted out”.

An appeals system will be in place if kids think they were wrong.

He also outlined in the House of Commons how kids will get back to school, including:

  • £200million extra cash for secondary schools for summer schools
  • Face coverings for kids in classrooms until at least Easter – where it will then be reviewed
  • Two tests a week for kids – the first two at home
  • More than 4 million tests have already been completed across primary, secondary schools, colleges and universities
  • Primary school staff will still get two tests a week, but the kids won’t have them
  • Staggered start times at schools and bubble groups will continue to keep them safe
  • Ministers confirmed face masks and Covid tests aren’t mandatory for students

Assessments descended into chaos last year with the A-level results of thousands of students downgraded due to a controversial algorithm used to standardise teachers’ estimated grades.

Following a public outcry, exams regulator Ofqual announced a U-turn, allowing students to use their teachers’ predictions.

And Mr Williamson confirmed algorithm plans had been put firmly in the bin, vowing to put trust in teachers instead.

 

He said: “I can confirm that no algorithm will be used for this process – grades will be awarded on the basis of teachers’ judgement.”

Schools must submit their grades by June 18.

Schools, college bosses and exam boards will carry out checks in a bid to make sure results are fair.

Boris Johnson thanks parents for keeping kids on track as schools prepare to reopen





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