Commenting on today’s release of GCSE results, and the delay in vocational and technical qualifications, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"The National Education Union congratulates all students receiving their results today. We commend them, the education staff who have supported them and their parents and carers on their hard work this year. They have shown great patience throughout the challenges of lockdown and last week's shambolic uncertainty. 

"Schools and colleges stepped up in challenging circumstances when exams were cancelled. They have worked tirelessly and professionally to submit grades for their students, based on all the evidence available to them, their experience and sound professional judgement. Teachers know their students better than any model or algorithm and it will be a relief to many that the grades they receive are now a fairer reflection of their achievements. 

"To add to the GCSE and A level fiasco, the decision by Pearson not to issue BTEC results at the eleventh hour compounds the upsetting and chaotic experience for students. Government must put an end to this incompetence and work quickly to ensure every young person gets the grades they deserve to move onto the next stages of their lives. 

"Serious questions remain as to what will happen next year and beyond. Government and Ofqual must learn from 2020 and start listening to the professionals, who have said very clearly that the plans for next year are not sufficient. With many months of learning lost for these students, exam content for next summer must be further reduced. Without this, the exams will become more a measure of how long individual students were in lockdown or whether they had access to learning at home as opposed to what they are capable of. 

"In any normal year, the over-reliance on exams increases student anxiety and fails to give a fair reflection of what students can achieve. Due to the fact exams are sat at a specific time and date, if a student is ill or experiences anything else which could affect their performance, this can also unfairly impact on their grade. 

"Had we already in place an assessment model for GCSEs and A-Levels which didn’t put all its eggs in the end of term exams basket, we wouldn’t have been in the mess we were this year. There are many ways to validly assess young people, yet in most subjects at GCSE we rely on these terminal exams to determine 100% of the grade. 

"The NEU is calling for Government to commission an independent review of the assessment methods used to award GCSE and A-level qualifications in England, along the lines announced by the Scottish government. 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 NEU has written to Gavin Williamson outlining our concerns and have asked for an urgent response. An NEU petition highlighting our concerns about 2021 exams has also been launched.” 

ENDS 

2020-143-NEU 

Editor’s Note 

Letter to Gavin Williamson, 19 August.

Petition.