Commenting on the launch of the Department for Education's consultation on the awarding of exam grades, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“There are still many questions left unanswered on the publication of this consultation. In some ways that is a good thing as it means education staff, students and parents can have their say on which options to take. But these conversations should have been taking place last year as it was obvious to all, except Gavin Williamson, that we needed to plan for this possibility. Many more options would have been available if plans had been made earlier, and teachers and students must not be held to blame for the failings of government.

"NEU members and students may well be reassured by the idea of externally created papers and questions, but unless these papers have flexibility – to ensure that students only answer questions on topics they have covered – then they will not produce fair results.

"It is also imperative that these papers do not form the sum total of the evidence upon which decisions about grades can be based. It will be far more accurate to base grades on a range of evidence and if government is genuine about trusting teachers then they will allow them as professionals, to determine what evidence is best to use.

"There seems to be large question marks around the suggested appeals process and we will need to explore this further. Whilst government may be clear that they wish students to have an appeal route it would be utterly wrong for them to shift the strain of this onto schools and colleges because of the fact they themselves haven’t prepared earlier in the year for proper external moderation.

"We welcome that written exams for VTQs will be paused from April onwards, which takes a lot of the pressure off BTEC and Cambridge National students and gives more certainty for them. It is also important that where practical assessments can take place for occupational competency, they should, if it's safe. Because of the complexity of different vocational and technical awards, their different purposes and assessment methods, it is even more obvious that government has left thinking about this until too late in the day. Suggesting that awarding organisations should now be developing an approach to awarding qualifications where there is insufficient evidence is too little too late, and is letting down students and their teachers."



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