Williamson will inform MPs that he asked Ofqual to come up with a proposal to substitute for GCSEs and levels A
Despite the extended closure, exams in core subjects could still take place in England this summer, according to plans being considered by Gavin Williamson.
On Wednesday, the education secretary would make a speech in the House of Commons after the prime minister called for school closures and said that as part of a third national lockout, summer exams will definitely be canceled.
Williamson would inform MPs that he instructed Ofqual, the regulator of English exams, to create a contingency plan to replace the GCSEs and A-levels this year, which the government had wanted to retain amid concerns about student learning loss during the pandemic.
One of the choices being discussed is to conduct exams with school-assessed grades for other subjects in core subjects such as English, math and possibly science at GCSE, but there are fears that this could lead to students neglecting non-examined courses.
Ministers are also worried that students may stop engaging with their studies without the objective of examinations.
Ofqual is also known to accept online assessments as a potential alternative, although access to school laptops remains a problem. Teachers may also be asked to build and label student job portfolios, a sample of which could be moderated externally to guarantee equal grades.
When ministers postponed examinations and were then forced to scrap GCSE and A-level grades generated by an Ofqual algorithm, the government would be desperate to prevent a repeat of last year’s examination debacle. Eventually, they reverted to school grades, contributing to university admissions turmoil.
“Obviously we can’t have A-levels, GCSEs or BTecs in the way we’ve had them in the past, but there are ways to make sure we can assess the work that students have done, give them fair recognition for it and help them onto the next stage of their education.”We obviously can’t have A-levels, GCSEs or BTecs in the way we’ve had them in the past, but there are ways to ensure that we can evaluate the work students have done, give them fair recognition for it, and assist them in the next phase of their education.
The government defied calls to cancel the summer exams for the second year in a row before introducing the new freeze, with Williamson saying last month that he could ‘absolutely’ promise that the exams will be held in England.
The pledge came as Williamson announced plans to allow students to be briefed in advance about the subjects and to take aids, such as formula sheets, for the exams.
“We know how difficult this must be for students, teachers and lecturers. We want to avoid at all costs that the arrangements for GCSEs, A levels and vocational and technical qualifications cause further disadvantage to students this summer. We are considering a range of options to ensure the fairest possible outcome in the circumstances.”We know how difficult this must be for students, teachers and lecturers. We want to avoid at all costs causing further disadvantage to students this summer by the arrangements for GCSEs, A levels and vocational and technical qualifications. We are exploring a range of options to ensure the fairest possible outcome in the circle
Meanwhile, college leaders in England have called on the government to cancel vocational examinations scheduled for this month, arguing that keeping them against the backdrop of a national lockdown is neither safe nor justifiable.
This month, hundreds of thousands of students will be taking examinations at schools and colleges.
Boris Johnson declared the lockdown last night, saying the exams should go ahead as scheduled.
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, has written to Gillian Keegan, minister of education and apprenticeships, asking for an immediate rethink. He said the message from the prime minister was that everybody should remain at home to help beat the virus.
“Asking college staff and students to ignore this message in order to take exams is simply untenable,” Hughes said.
For them and their families, it is obviously not healthy, even with the best security measures a college can take. It would also be unreasonable for students to continue with this series of examinations now.