Instead, Gavin Williamson says, A-levels and GCSEs are based on assessed grades.
Gavin Williamson told MPs that GCSE and A-level examinations in England are to be scrapped this year in favour of assessed grades and SATs scrapped in elementary school, explaining that after last year’s exam fiasco, the government will put “our faith in teachers, not algorithms”
The Secretary of Education was accused of the decision to close English schools on Monday night following the return of millions of students one day after Christmas.
Wherever Williamson went, Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said that “chaos and confusion” followed.
Williamson’s speech to the House of Commons reiterated the decision to postpone summer exams in England, such AS levels, in light of the latest round of school closures, until at least after the mid-term break in February.
Scotland and Wales have already cancelled summer tests, and Minister of Education Peter Weir of Northern Ireland confirmed the same intention on Wednesday.
Examinations were cancelled last summer as well. Grades were originally awarded in England after an algorithm changed the ratings of teachers, a scheme that was abandoned days later after the findings were condemned as arbitrary and biased against poor students.
The examination results of last year “did not deliver what they needed to, with the repercussions painfully felt by students and their parents,” Williamson said in the House of Commons, adding that the same issue has been faced by other British nations.
While exams are the fairest way to test what a student knows, the effect of this pandemic now means that these exams will not be held this year.
I can confirm that this summer, GCSEs, A levels and AS level examinations will not be held,” he said.
“This year we will rely on teachers and not algorithms,” he said. He added that Ofqual “have already worked out a number of fallback options” from the Department for Education and Exams Regulator, which will be finalized shortly with the aid of exam boards and teacher organizations.
“I can now confirm that I want to use some form of teacher-approved grades, with training and support to ensure they are awarded fairly and consistently across the country,” he said.
Williamson also said that digital support for students who are kept out of class and can not access online learning has been “significantly increased” by the government. One million laptops and tablets have been ordered, and by the end of next week, 750,000 will be distributed.
Williamson said, “I never wanted to be in a position where we had to close schools again,” The last thing an education secretary needs to do is declare the closure of schools, and this is not a move that the government has ever decided to make.
“I want to assure everyone that our schools have not suddenly become unsafe, but capping them is essential when covid rates rise, as they are now.”
In her reply, Green bitingly told Williamson, “It’s disappointing that he didn’t make a New Year’s resolution to avoid over-face or chronic incompetence.”
“Once again, 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.”