Education Secretary announces plans for A Levels and GCSEs

06 Jan 2021

Responding to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson's announcement in Parliament today, Chief Executive David Hughes said: 

“We welcome the Secretary of State’s decision to move to teacher assessed grades for this summer’s public exams and the trust that shows in teachers professional judgements - they are best placed to do this and AoC has been calling for this to be planned as a contingency since September. We believe that this could help address the different levels of disruption to learning which different students have experienced.

We welcome the opportunity to work with the government, Ofqual, awarding organisations and other representative groups to develop a workable and fair system for all students across all types of general, applied general and vocational/technical qualifications. It is vital that the proposed way forward is consistent and fair to every student because of the worry and confusion which abounds currently, particularly following the mixed message that January exams are going ahead while this summer’s exams are cancelled.

As well as young people, there are around 250,000 apprentices and 1 million adult students studying for qualifications in colleges. Decisions for all qualification types need to be made and communicated as soon as possible, so we welcome the speed at which the government has committed to work on this.  Not only do the plans need to be fair, comprehensive, inclusive and robust; they also need to be agreed quickly, communicated clearly and be flexible enough to work in practice. Clarity is needed for students, but so is reassurance that they can trust the plans will be put into action and stuck to.

This year’s system faces an enormous challenge of accounting for the differential disruption which students have already experienced over two academic years: differential lost learning time, differential access to digital devices and broadband off-site and the differential  impact of sickness and self-isolation in different contexts. This is not easy to map, but it is clear that those who already face the biggest barriers to success are also the most affected by the impact of Covid-19. The pandemic has widened and deepened educational disadvantage gaps.

There is an emerging issue too for students on licence to practice courses, who may not have been able to receive the level of training they will need to be able to show competency in their chosen field. This is a training as well as an assessment challenge which will need special attention urgently alongside the consultation."

AoC asks for:

  • A robust plan to be agreed as soon as possible for all qualification types with clear guidance for students, teachers and centres.
  • A national system of centre-moderated assessment combined with national moderation.
  • A special consideration process which allows centres to flag and quantify the level of disruption faced by students.
  • The resources available in the exam support service to be targeted at providing access to digital devices and broadband for those students who lack access so they can fully access online learning opportunities.
  • Urgent review of the lost training which licence to practice students have suffered which might hamper their ability to meet the competencies required in their chosen fields.