How will GCSEs, A-Levels and Btecs be graded in 2021 – what we know as exams are cancelled

Exams have been cancelled across the UK (Image: Getty)

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Last month, Mr Williamson gave an “absolutely” cast-iron guarantee that exams in England would not be cancelled this academic year.

So it was with a thudding inevitability that the third lockdown has seen England follow the rest of the UK in the decision to cancel exams.

Labour's Kate Green no doubt spoke for lots of teachers and parents when she concluded that "where the Secretary of State goes, chaos and confusion follows and it’s children, families and education staff across the country who pay the price for his incompetence.”

So now that exams have been cancelled there are teachers, parents and pupils are left scrambling for answers about what it will all mean.

And big questions remain unanswered while the government and exam regulator Ofqual consult on what the teacher assessment scheme will look like.

But this is what we know so far.

Gavin Williamson said a detailed consultation would be launched next week
(Image: Getty)

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What how will pupils be graded at GCSE, AS and A-Level?

GCSE, AS and A-level exams in England this summer will be replaced by school assessments – led by teachers grading of pupils.

But the details of the exact process hasn't been confirmed it will be different from last years system.

The Education Secretary acknowledged that exams are the “fairest way” of assessing what a student knows, but said the impact of the pandemic meant it was not possible to hold exams in the summer.

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How will it be different from last summer?

Mr Williamson told MPs that the Government will put its “trust in teachers, rather than algorithms”.

Last year teachers submitted grades which were then moderated by a computer programme which tried to deal with teachers being overly generous.

The result was children from schools in more deprived areas being massively downgraded.

IN a massive U–turn children were then awarded the grades their teacher originally predicted for them, but this led to massive grade inflation.

So with that in mind, Mr Williamson confirmed there will be training for teachers on how to assess children.

Doesn't that put too much power in the hands of teachers or leave them vulnerable to parents complaining?

Potentially, yes.

But in addition to the training, Mr Williamson said that the Department for Education will produce guidance with exam regulator Ofqual for teachers to guide their marking.

Mr Williamson said he wishes to use a form of teacher-assessed grades to award results rather than an algorithm.

He told the Commons: “While the details will need to be fine-tuned in consultation with Ofqual, the exam boards and teaching representative organisations.

“I can confirm now that I wish to use a form of teacher-assessed grades with training and support provided to ensure these are awarded fairly and consistently across the country.”

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Will children be able to appeal a result given to them by a teacher? What will teachers consider?

The honest answer is we don't know yet.

The Education Secretary said that a detailed consultation on the options for alternatives to the exams will be launched by Ofqual next week.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has called on Ofqual and the Government to avoid “a repeat of the shambles of last summer”.

Mr Barton said: “The Education Secretary’s vague statement does not take us a great deal further forward other than to set out the broad parameters for the exam regulator Ofqual to work out a detailed plan.”

He added: “It is frustrating that there is not an off-the-shelf Plan B ready to go. We have repeatedly called on the Government and the regulator to prepare such a plan in the event of exams being cancelled, and have repeatedly offered to work with them in doing so.

“However, ministers have been so busy insisting that exams will take place that they have failed to ensure that there is a contingency system which can be immediately rolled out. This is, frankly, a dereliction of duty.”

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What about other exams? Are BTECs still going ahead?

Mr Williamson told MPs that SATs exams in primary schools will also not be going ahead this year.

Schools and colleges were given the flexibility to decide whether they want to run vocational exams like BTECs this month, despite pressure from MPs, college leaders and students to cancel them.

On Tuesday evening, hours before Btec exams were due to start, the DfE announced that schools and colleges could continue with the January exams series “where they judge it right to do so”.

Pearson, which runs Btec exams, said it was working to award a grade to any student who is unable to take their exams during the lockdown and who has enough evidence to receive the certificate they need for progression.

But it hasn't been decided yet what will happen to BTEC and other vocational qualifications which have exams from February onwards.

The DfE is working with Ofqual on arrangements for those who do not take their January assessments, as well as for vocational and technical assessments scheduled for February onwards.

And what guidelines are there for pupils who aren't in exam years?

The Government has set out minimum guidelines for what schools need to provide to all pupils while teaching them online.

Gavin Williamson told MPs: “We expect schools to provide between three and five hours teaching a day, depending on the child’s age.

“If parents feel their child’s school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and, failing that, report the matter to Ofsted.”

The government expects schools to have a digital platform, such as G-Suite or Microsoft Education, and they should provide at least some of their remote provision via video lessons – this can be done by school-led videos or using other providers like Oak National Academy.

Schools and colleges were given the flexibility to decide whether they want to run vocational exams this month, despite pressure from MPs, college leaders and students to cancel them.

On Tuesday evening, hours before Btec exams were due to start, the DfE announced that schools and colleges could continue with the January exams series “where they judge it right to do so”.

Pearson, which runs Btec exams, said it was working to award a grade to any student who is unable to take their exams during the lockdown and who has enough evidence to receive the certificate they need for progression.

What is happening in the rest of the UK?

On Wednesday, Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir confirmed that all scheduled GCSE and A-level exams will be cancelled in Northern Ireland.

In November, education minister Kirsty Williams announced that GCSE, AS level and A-level exams in Wales would be scrapped.

Last month, Education Secretary John Swinney said all exams in Scotland were cancelled because of the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on pupils.

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