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Petition calling for action on fixing exams system reaches 25,000 signatures in its first 24 hours

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Over 25,000 people have already signed the @NEUnion #FairGrade2021 petition to the Prime Minister which launched on Wednesday night, in a demonstration of the anger and frustration generated by the Government’s catastrophic mishandling of this year’s A-Level and GCSE grading process.

Parents, students and education professionals are as one in their belief this disaster must never happen again. Together, they are calling for swift action to ensure that students sitting those same exams in 2021 are treated fairly and that none are cruelly disadvantaged by an algorithm.  

NEU are asking Government to:  

  • Reduce the content assessed in GCSE and A-level exams next summer, across all subjects, to allow for variation in lost learning time
  • Work with the profession to develop a robust national system of moderated centre assessed grades in case there is further disruption to exams next summer due to Covid-19
  • Commission a thorough, independent review into assessment methods used to award GCSE and A-level qualifications in England, along the lines announced by the Scottish government.   

mary boustedDr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union, said: 

“This Government has no one but itself to blame. The weaknesses in a system of its own creation have been left horribly exposed. What is needed is nothing short of an independent review into what went wrong, and a determination to ensure it never happens again. That would be a big step towards regaining the trust of parents and the profession.” 

The wording of the #FairGrade2021 petition, which is addressed to Boris Johnson, is as follows:

  • 1st for EPA - Assessment made easy

“The Government has a duty of care for the nation’s children and young people. In its management of this year’s A-Level grading process, the Government failed in this duty. 

“Ministers showed a lack of trust in teachers and leaders, whose assessments of their students’ potential were overwhelmingly discarded in favour of an Ofqual algorithm combined with historic patterns of grades in schools and colleges. Grades were initially awarded, for the vast majority of students, with no reference to, or evidence of, their individual achievements. Young people do not deserve to be treated as numbers in an algorithm. 

“This must never happen again. For students due to sit A-Level and GCSE exams in 2021 – young people who have already suffered so much due to the Coronavirus pandemic – it is vital that the Government takes urgent steps to ensure they are treated fairly and that none are disadvantaged. 

“We call on the Government to: 

  • Plan for the GCSE and A-Levels taken by students in 2021 by reducing or making optional the expected content in all subjects. Students starting the final year of their GCSE and A-Levels this September have missed months of schooling: the exams they sit in the summer of 2021 must reflect this lost learning time and include more question choice and a slimmed down syllabus. 

  • Develop a national system of teacher moderated grades in case there is further disruption to exams next summer because of a second spike or local lockdowns. 

  • Commission a thorough review into the assessment methods used to award GCSE and A Level qualifications in England, along the lines announced by the Scottish government. All options should be considered, including the possibility of more coursework and systematic, moderated teacher assessment, in order to broaden the assessment system and ensure that young people are rewarded for their achievements, supported to fulfil their potential and not held back due to their background.” 

Petitions Committee Chair calls on Government to urgently respond to petitions relating to A-level and GCSE grades

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Cat McKinnell MP, has written to the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson MP (20 Aug), to request urgent responses to two petitions on student grading that have received over 180,000 signatures.

Since A-level students received their results last week, Parliament’s e-petitions website has seen two petitions relating to exam grading reach the threshold for a Government response. A petition to review the decision to use previous data to calculate exam grades received over 148,000 signatures, and a petition calling for the Government to reverse all exam grades back to teacher’s own predictions has received over 33,000 signatures.

In a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP urged the Government to expedite responses to these petitions, setting out the actions they are taking in response to the concerns expressed by these petitions.

On the day GCSE students receive their results, the correspondence acknowledges that the Government’s announcement that grades will now be awarded on the basis of predictions by teachers will be welcomed by many, but there are still questions that need to be answered with the deadline for University offer conditions to be met fast approaching.

In light of the significant support these petitions have seen in such a short space of time, the letter calls on the Government to give students, their parents, universities and potential employers the confidence that their results are robust and fair.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, said:

“Results day is a crucial time for many young people who are waiting to see what their future will hold. Many A-level students were left stressed, anxious and disappointed last week by the often severe, inexplicable and unfair reduction in their grades, and the intensity of feeling on this issue has been made clear by thousands of petitioners.  

“Although many students, parents and schools will welcome the Government’s announcement that A-Level and GCSE students will now be awarded their Centre Assessment Grades, there is still an urgent need for the Government to clarify arrangements for students who have been affected.

“It is vital that the Government expedites its responses to these petitions. We as MPs are hearing directly from affected students and parents in our constituencies and they deserve clarity on the Government’s position and its plans to ensure that students are not unfairly disadvantaged at such a crucial stage in their lives.”

Read the full letter from the Petitions Committee here.

The Committee is currently made up of 11 backbench Members of Parliament from Government and Opposition parties. The number of seats each party has is calculated to reflect the membership of the House as a whole. The Chair of the Committee was elected on 29 January 2020. The members of the Committee are:

  1. Catherine McKinnell (Chair) – Labour
  2. Martyn Day – Scottish National Party
  3. Elliot Colburn – Conservative
  4. Steve Double – Conservative
  5. Chris Evans – Labour
  6. Katherine Fletcher – Conservative
  7. Nick Fletcher – Conservative
  8. Mike Hill – Labour
  9. Tom Hunt – Conservative
  10. Tonia Antoniazzi – Labour
  11. Theresa Villiers – Conservative
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