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2021 exam plans welcome – but don’t forget less privileged pupils

Plans for generous grading for 2021 exams are welcome, but the government must ensure disadvantaged students are not left out, says Commissioner Sammy Wright.

Plans by the Education Secretary for more generous grading in 2021 exams have been welcomed by the Social Mobility Commission.

Sammy Wright, Commissioner for Schools and Higher Education has supported the range of measures announced by Gavin Williamson in the face of the ongoing Covid pandemic.

Sammy has also praised the absence of exam results in school performance tables this year, but called on the Department for Education to ensure a resit year would be available for those who needed it.

However he points out that none of the measures address the impact that Covid will have on the most disadvantaged groups. He argues that they will help all students equally, leaving the most disadvantaged pupils just as far behind as they are now.

Exams must go ahead

Mr Wright said: “We are delighted that the DfE has recognised the difficulties schools face in ensuring students have a fair chance in exams this summer. We agree wholeheartedly that exams must go ahead.

“Generous grading, pre-released content, and allowing for missed exams through an extra session or teacher assessment are all measures to be welcomed, and will make a real difference to young people and schools.

“The absence of exam results in performance tables for this year is a huge boost for schools, and exactly what we have been calling for – scrutiny is important, but in the circumstances of this year the absence of the perverse incentives of the accountability system will free schools to simply focus on securing the best possible destinations for their students, and focusing on the key qualifications they need to do so.

“However, it is vital that we go further. None of the above measures address the widening gap that Covid makes inevitable. They help all students equally, and will leave the most disadvantaged just as far behind.

“If we can allow the judicious use of centre assessed “certificates of completion” in place of the exams that are not central to progression, we can begin to mitigate this.

Chance of a resit year

“The suggestion of an asterisk against the grade of those most disadvantaged by Covid also has merit.

“Finally, we must give proper consideration to the students for whom learning loss has been so extensive that any grade this year will never represent a true measure of their capacity.

“These students must be guaranteed the chance of a resit year, with no jeopardy, and schools and colleges must be funded to provide this.”

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