Fairness for students taking A-levels and GCSEs in 2021
In its management of this year’s A-level and GCSE grading process, the Government failed in its duty of care towards our young people.
Ministers showed a lack of trust in teachers and leaders, whose assessments of their students’ potential were discarded in favour of an Ofqual algorithm combined with the past results of schools and colleges. For the majority of students, grades were initially awarded 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. Our young people have already suffered so much due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is vital that the Government takes urgent steps to ensure students due to sit A-level and GCSE exams in 2021 are treated fairly and that none are disadvantaged. Allowances must be made for the time they have missed in school and contingencies put in place in case of further school closures due to coronavirus.
We call on the Government to:
- Reduce the content assessed in GCSE and A-level exams next summer. Students starting the final year of their GCSEs and A-levels in September 2020 have missed months of schooling: the exams they sit in the summer of 2021 must reflect this lost learning time. They must be slimmed down by making some topics optional to allow for the different order in which content will have been taught across the country.
- Work with teachers and school leaders to develop a robust national system of moderated centre assessed grades in case there is further disruption to exams next summer because of a second spike in coronavirus or local lockdowns.
- 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. The current over-reliance on exams increases student anxiety and fails to give a fair reflection of what students can achieve. All options should be considered to ensure that young people are rewarded for their achievements, supported to fulfil their potential and not held back due to their background.