From education to employment

Labour calls for urgent clarity on consequences of exams u-turn

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary

@KateGreenSU –  Labour is calling for the government to provide urgent clarity on outstanding questions following the government’s u-turn on A-Level and GCSE results on young people and universities.   

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green has written to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, to call on him to address the concerns of young people and their families on university places, set out what will happen to those who have already accepted an offer in clearing or at an insurance choice after they received a moderated grade lower than their centre-assessed grade, why BTEC students were excluded from the policy change and how universities will be supported following the government’s decision to scrap student number caps.  

Yesterday, the government announced that teachers’ predicted grades would be used to award GCSEs and A Levels, following a chaotic several days in which there were repeated changes in government policy, including guidance published and deleted on the same day. Labour first called for this u-turn the day after A Level results.   

Commenting, Kate Green MP. Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education said:   

“The UK government has finally listened to young people, their parents, their teachers, and the Labour Party, and changed their approach to exams.  

This was a welcome and necessary change in policy, but we should never have been in this position as the government has had months to get this right. The delay and chaos accompanying means that students, families, and education providers have no answers to essential questions.”   

“It is time for this government to get a grip and provide the clarity that we need to move forward.”   


Kate Green Letter to Gavin Williamson: 

Dear Gavin 

I am pleased your Government this afternoon finally reversed its position on A-Level and GCSE results, and will now allow young people to receive the Centre Assessed Grades they deserve for their hard work. 

However, the confusion of the past few weeks, and delay in making these important decisions, mean there are now important outstanding issues on which students, parents and institutions need urgent clarity. 

I note this evening that you have lifted the cap on university places that was imposed this year. This is important so as to not disadvantage young people who have missed out on their first choice of university. However, it raises a number of questions: 

Will the cap be lifted only to enable those students holding existing offers to take their place at their chosen university this year or is it a wholesale lifting of the cap?  

What capacity is there in the system to accommodate higher numbers of students enrolling on courses? 

What happens to a student who has accepted an offer – whether that is through clearing or their insurance option – because their moderated grade was lower than CAG? Are they able to switch institutions? And what happens to any potential accommodation contracts they may have signed should they choose to switch? 

Lifting the cap on student numbers will potentially have significant financial implications for some institutions – will your Department be offering them additional support? Can you confirm that no university will be allowed to fail financially as a result of these changes? 

What steps have you taken to ensure that universities are prioritising widening participation and that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not missing out as a result of the events of the past few weeks? 

Why are BTEC students excluded from today’s change in policy when many of them will have applied to university and are in the same position as their A-Level counterparts? This is on top of the delays that many have faced in receiving their results. What urgent support are you offering to these students? 

Can you also confirm when students and universities will see the grades that they have been awarded? 

Many students are still in limbo – what support will be offered to young people who have to defer their place for a year? Is it the government’s policy still to have an autumn exam series – is this an option for young people who still want to improve their grades? What is the Government doing to address the problem of home-schooled pupils not receiving GCSEs? 

Will you confirm that there will be an appeals process for students not happy with their centre assessed grade, and will these appeals still be free of charge as announced last week? 

I look forward to your urgent response on these matters. 

Yours sincerely 

Kate Green MP 


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