Students to get more generous exam grades after lessons disrupted by Covid
- Credit: PA
Students taking GCSE and A-level exams next year will be awarded more generous grades to compensate for disruption to their schooling during the coronavirus pandemic.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said pupils will receive advance notice of some topics ahead of tests - as well as exam aids when sitting papers - to ensure they are not disadvantaged.
Additional exams will also be run to give students a second chance to sit a paper to ensure every student receives a grade, even if they miss a paper due to self-isolation or illness.
The announcement of new measures comes after the fiasco around grading of GCSE and A-level students in the summer, when exams were cancelled amid the coronavirus pandemic and school closures.
Thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by an algorithm, before Ofqual announced a U-turn, allowing them to use teachers' original predictions instead.
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The government has emphasised it sees exams are the fairest way to judge a student’s performance and has made keeping schools and colleges open a national priority throughout the pandemic in order to minimise disruption.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Exams are the best way of giving young people the opportunity to show what they can do which is why it’s so important they take place next summer.
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“But this isn’t business as usual. I know students are facing unprecedented disruption to their learning. That’s why exams will be different next year, taking exceptional steps to ensure they are as fair as possible.
“I am determined to support students, parents and teachers in these unprecedented times and hope measures like more generous grading and advance notice of some topic areas will give young people the clarity and confidence they need to achieve every success.”
Building on the three week delay to exams to free up extra teaching time that has announced in October, the new measures announced today include advance notice of some topic areas covered in GCSE, AS and A levels to focus revision, and exam aids — like formula sheets — in some exams to reduce the amount of information needed to be memorised.
In addition a new expert group will monitor the variation in the impact of the pandemic on students across the country, the Department for Education (DfE) said.
Geoff Barton, former Bury St Edmunds headteacher and general secretary of the ASCL, which represents most secondary school heads, said: "This solution to next year's A-level and GCSE exams will make them as fair as they can be in the circumstances.
"It is not perfect - nothing can be given the fact that learning has been so disrupted by coronavirus and that pupils have been affected to vastly different extents.
"But various options have been discussed exhaustively, and, frankly, schools and colleges just need a decision. The uncertainty has gone on for much too long and they need to be able to get on with the job of preparing their pupils for these important exams."
Under new contingency measures, students who miss one or more exams due to self-isolation or sickness, but who have still completed a proportion of their qualification, will still receive a grade.
Those who miss all their assessments in a subject, they will have the opportunity to sit a contingency paper held shortly after the main exam series.
If a pupil has a legitimate reason to miss all their papers, then a validated teacher-informed assessment can be used but only once all chances to sit an exam have passed.
It comes after DfE figures revealed that more than a fifth (22pc) of secondary school pupils were absent from school last week for the second week running.
Schools across Norfolk and Waveney have seen disruption caused by coronavirus outbreaks. Cliff Park Ormiston Academy, in Gorleston was forced to completely shut its doors to pupils last month. Hundreds of Year 10s at Springwood High in King's Lynn were kept at home after a spate of positive tests.
One Norwich college principal said: “These measures make sense. It is really hard because whatever they do here has downsides,
“For us in Norfolk it could be a lot worse because we are not a region where you have had hardly anyone in schools.”