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Exams chaos: Never again, say parents, pupils, teachers

By Hannah Richardson
BBC News education reporter

image copyrightPA Media
image captionThis year's results have been mired in controversy

Teachers, parents and pupils are calling for a major re-think of next summer's exams, following the chaos which has dogged the UK exams system.

Tens of thousands have signed a petition saying: "This must never happen again," organised by the National Education Union.

The petition backs earlier calls from head teachers for an urgent independent review into what went wrong.

It comes after pupils got record grades in a switch to school assessments.

A faulty algorithm had deliberately marked young people down, but in ways that were described as "unfair and unfathomable" by head teachers.

'Missed schooling'

The petition calls for plans for next year's GCSE and A-Level exams to take account the fact that candidates will have missed months of schooling.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionGCSE and A-level students not happy with the calculated grades awarded this summer can resit in the autumn

It said: "The exams they sit in the summer of 2021 must reflect this lost learning time and include more question choices and a slimmed down syllabus."

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It also called for a system of teacher moderated grades in case there is further disruption to exams next summer due to a second wave of Coronavirus and further lockdowns.

The NEU wants to see a thorough review of the methods used to assess pupils at GCSE and A-levels, including the possibility of more coursework.

Joint General Secretary Mary Bousted said ministers showed a complete lack of trust in schools in adopting the Ofqual algorithm.

She said: "Grades were initially awarded, for the vast majority of students, with no reference to, or evidence of their individual achievements."

'Contingency plan?'

The leader of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton, has made a similar call.

"It simply isn't going to be possible for all students to cover all the content in GCSEs and A-levels to the depth required.

"Most worrying of all, is the complete absence of a contingency plan in the event that large numbers of students are unable to take exams next summer."

ASCL also called on England's exams regulator, Ofqual, to consider:

  • introducing more choice in questions so those who have missed out on parts of the syllabus face less disadvantage,
  • the possibility of open book exams in English or formula sheets in maths and science, in recognition of the reduced time pupils have had to learn
  • a parallel system of grading by the school, similar to that being used this year, which could help inform the grades of students who may have to miss exams

Ofqual has already consulted on the issue and decided to:

  • introduce a choice of topics for history, geography and English literature
  • modify how oral skills are are assessed in languages
  • collaborate with vocational qualification providers on reforms

However, Ofqual has yet to decide whether the start of next year's summer exam season will be delayed for a few weeks.

Related Topics

  • Ofqual
  • GCSEs
  • Schools
  • National Education Union
  • Exams

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