Schools Minister Nick Gibb

Following on from today's (5 Oct) meeting with the Schools Minister @NickGibbUK and @Ofqual on how to make next year's #GCSE and #Alevels as fair as possible, 

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

"Today’s meeting with the schools minister Nick Gibb and Ofqual was useful because the education unions were able to present the ideas in their joint paper to government*. It is clear that Ofqual is thinking hard about how next year’s GCSEs and A levels can be fair to students whose learning has been disrupted throughout the pandemic. Ofqual has asked for a further two weeks to come up with proposals. 

"The government, however, is not showing signs of thinking hard enough about the issues facing teachers and students.

"Teachers, absolutely need to know what the format and content of GCSEs and A levels will be next summer Teachers invest huge amounts of work and care into preparing their students for these exams, because they are so important for students’ life chances. At present, they are in the dark – and this is causing them huge stress and anxiety which, had the government done its preparation, would not be necessary.

"We are also very concerned that there is no plan B for students who are not able to take exams in the summer. Teachers should have begun this term knowing what forms of student assessment they needed to undertake to provide robust evidence for centre assessed grades.  We cannot repeat this year’s scramble to locate this evidence – in the form of a ‘valid’ mock exam. 

"It is very troubling that government does not appear to have learned the lessons of this year when it comes to exams.  The danger of history repeating itself next year is all too obvious."

Commenting on the passing of motion 3 at the NEU Special Conference (3 Oct), Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, continued:   

“Covid has exposed the fault lines in our current system of assessment and accountability.   

“The GCSE and A Level grade fiasco this summer showed the fragility of a qualification system that puts all of its eggs in the timed exam basket. Even worse, the grades achieved by pupils each year are rationed. It is built into the awarding system that a third of young people must fail their GCSE English and maths – even though they may have achieved a standard that in a previous year would have been awarded a pass grade.  How such an unjust and inequitable system can be tolerated by government is a mystery   

“Gavin Williamson needs to recognise that given the scale of disruption to learning that has occurred during Covid, a slight delay to timetables and a slight alteration to GCSE and A Level content is an inadequate and untenable response.   

“If exams are taken, they must be designed to allow pupils to have greater question options, so that they are examined on what they have been taught, not what they haven't. Failure to address the issues now has the potential to store up yet another huge upset for next year's GCSE and A Level students. And for students who are not able to sit exams next summer, we need to see a robust system of moderated centre assessed grades on which to award GCSE and A Levels in 2021.   

“Even without Covid, primary school SATs were an inappropriate and inadequate measure of children's progress.  They should not be taken in 2021 and the time spent in SATs preparation used instead to focus on learning through a broad and balanced curriculum.  

“Ofsted should stay away from schools and colleges with the one exception of safeguarding concerns. It is farcical to think that a day’s inspection is in anyway helpful or supportive to schools and colleges in these extraordinary times. If Ofsted wants to be of any use at all it should send its qualified inspectors into schools to teach.   

“Government needs to get a grip and recognise how vital it is that assessment and accountability reflects the times we are living in and ensures every pupil has a fair chance of success. Neither parents, heads, teachers, support staff, will forgive a Government who makes the same mistake twice.  

“The NEU will be setting up an independent commission to look into assessment, how to avoid the mistakes made during Covid, how to proceed while still in a pandemic and how we can build back better beyond Covid.”  

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