This afternoon, representatives of the National Education Union will hand in its Fair Grade petition to the Department for Education.

61,216 people signed the petition, which calls on Government to ensure fairness for all students taking A-Levels and GCSEs in 2021.

Launched in the wake of the Government’s disastrous handling of this year’s exams, the Fair Grade petition makes the following demands

  • 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.

The hand-in will be led by Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, alongside Rafia Hussain who launched a parallel petition on that prompted a Parliamentary debate on 12 October.

Commenting ahead of the petition hand-in, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“This petition was launched before the full opening of schools in September and prior to the many examples of schools having to send pupils home due to new cases of Covid-19. Our warnings were prescient. There is a clear disruption to learning, and a geographical unevenness. There is an emerging postcode lottery for exams in 2021.

“In October, Gavin Williamson made it even harder for disadvantaged pupils to avoid learning loss. His actions to impose a legal duty on schools to provide remote learning, but to then ration already inadequate supplies of IT equipment to families the next day, are shameful. They are not the actions of a politician with the welfare of every child at the forefront of his mind.

“Any sensible observer can see there will not be a level playing field for exams next year, and it is deeply irresponsible of Gavin Williamson to conclude – as he recently did – that a three-week delay to summer exams in 2021 will be sufficient to make the system fair.

“We need a rethink, and with it a far more realistic expectation of what should be measured and how. Since August we have been calling on Government to work with us to address the challenges facing GCSE and A-Level students, who are studying right now, so that they are not met with the sort of atrocious handling of results we saw in 2020. Students need to know where they stand now, not later.”


Editor’s Note

The full text of the Fair Grade petition


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