Commenting on the policy paper Education Policy Institute position on testing and examinations in 2021, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The NEU has been calling for a fair system of examinations in 2021, to avoid the farce of this year and ensure that students' futures are never again put at risk by this Government. We agree with the Education Policy Institute that Gavin Williamson really should have listened sooner. Burying his head in the sand is no sort of strategy.
"We need greater optionality in order that students can be assured of a fair grade next summer. The question is why the Government has not pursued this already. Optionality would go some significant way towards accounting for the unequal impacts of Covid around the country. It would restore fairness by ensuring that students have the chance of a grade that actually reflects the things they know and can do, rather than topics which could not be accessed due to home circumstances.
"Gavin Williamson has made matters worse by failing to deliver around half of the IT equipment promised to disadvantaged students in the spring, and has since pivoted to rationing what few supplies are now available. He is baking unfairness into the system. Many young people who are forced to self-isolate will have even greater difficulty accessing learning, and current arrangements for next year's exams will conspire to work against and disenfranchise those same students.
"The Westminster government needs to catch up with the other nations in the UK. In Wales and Northern Ireland content has already been reduced to give all students a fairer chance at a grade. This is the best way forward.
"We also need nationally moderated centre-assessed grades. We recognise the issues highlighted by the EPI but it would be possible, if Ofqual and DfE move swiftly, to have a more robust version this year. In Scotland, structures are being put in place to base judgments on internally and nationally moderated evidence and if we used a similar system in England, this would mitigate the concerns raised.
"We also think it is a sensible idea to offer additional funding to exam boards to help them manage the risk of making these changes later down the line than should have been the case. It is worth the effort to do so, to spare students a repeat of the fiasco of 2020."
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