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Source: Labour List UK

Kate Green has declared that the delay to A-Level and GCSE exams announced by the Education Secretary for assessments next year is “necessary but not enough to make exams fair for all”.

Responding to confirmation this afternoon that exams will be held in the summer of 2021 but delayed by three weeks, the Shadow Education Secretary urged the government to also “look at other possibilities”.

Gavin Williamson said today that the assessments will be subject to a three-week delay to allow for additional teaching time, following the announcement of other adjustments already outlined by qualifications regulator Ofqual.

But Green argued that the government could have made the call on the 2021 exams delay “weeks ago to give schools more time to prepare” and “must ensure that every pupil gets the support they need to catch up”.

The changes revealed by the government today mean that summer exams in England will begin on June 7th and end on July 2nd for nearly all AS/A-Levels and GCSEs. Students will receive their results on August 24th and 27th respectively.

Announcing the move, Gavin Williamson said: “Exams are the fairest way of judging a student’s performance so they will go ahead, underpinned by contingency measures developed in partnership with the sector.

“Students have experienced considerable disruption and it’s right we give them, and their teachers, the certainty that exams will go ahead and more time to prepare.”

But the call from the Shadow Education Secretary for the government to consider “other possibilities” to make sure that students are not disadvantaged academically in the pandemic echoes the demands of trade unions.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “Whilst a delay in the start of exams in 2021 to allow students and teachers more time to complete courses is welcome, it is vital to consider how this will affect teacher workload and timetable planning.

“Longer term, the current situation shows that we must seriously look at moving to a system of post-qualifications admissions, where students apply to university after their results.

“Without substantial support from the government, and a commitment to genuine reform, further uncertainty around exams and marking systems will simply create further chaos for students and unbearable workloads for staff.”

Both the Association of School and College Leaders and the union NAHT said they are “dismayed” at the government’s plan to counter Covid GCSE and A-Level disruption with the minor delay, describing the measure as “inadequate”.

Commenting this afternoon, ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “It has taken the government an eternity to reach a very inadequate response to the scale of the challenge which lies ahead for students who are taking GCSEs and A-levels next year.

“Delaying the start of exams by three weeks is of marginal benefit when compared to the loss of learning from the national lockdown and ongoing disruption. There isn’t enough being done to make the exams themselves fairer.”

General secretary of the NAHT, Paul Whiteman said: “A delay is one step which could benefit all students giving teachers more time to cover the content.

“But along with the delay, comes a compression of the series, and we remain concerned about the impact of this on both student wellbeing and their exam performance.”

The revision to the academic timetable comes after thousands of A-Level students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland received grades predicted by an algorithm over the summer as a result of exams being cancelled due to the pandemic.

The government came under sustained pressure after data published by Ofqual showed that the algorithm had resulted in 39.1% of grades in England being moderated downwards, with the most disadvantaged pupils worst-affected.

The Education Secretary later performed what Keir Starmer described as a “screeching U-turn”, scrapping the controversial algorithm and awarding grades to pupils based on teacher-predicted outcomes.

This latest announcement for schools in England comes after the Scottish government decided not to hold exams for its national five qualification, the equivalent of GCSEs, instead opting for a new system of school assessments.

Scotland has also said that its Highers and Advanced Highers – the equivalent of A-levels – will be delayed. A-level, AS and GCSE exams in Northern Ireland will start one week later in 2021 but will still finish by June 30th.

MIL OSI United Kingdom