Exams in England will be replaced by school-based assessments, says Gavin Williamson

Sophia Sleigh
·3-min read

Watch: Gavin Williamson confirms teacher assessments will replace exams in England

GCSE and A-level exams in England will be replaced by school-based assessments, the Education Secretary has announced.

In a speech to MPs, Gavin Williamson confirmed that this summer’s exams are cancelled.

The announcement is the Government’s latest screeching U-turn, after Mr Williamson insisted only a month ago that exams would "absolutely" go ahead.

Today he told the Commons that exams were the “fairest” way of assessing what a student knows but the impact of the pandemic meant it was “not possible” to have them this year.

The Education Secretary admitted that last year’s algorithm “did not deliver what they needed” and the impact was “felt painfully” by students and their parents.

 (Sky News)
(Sky News)

He added: "This year, we're going to put our trust in teachers, rather than algorithms."

This summer, a form of teacher-assessed grades will be used along with training to ensure grades are awarded "fairly and consistently".

The Department for Education and Ofqual have already worked up a “range of contingency options”, Mr Williamson said.

He added: "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.

"I know students and staff have worked hard to prepare for the January exams and assessments of vocational and technical qualifications and we want to allow schools and colleges to continue with these assessments where they judge it is right to do so.

"No college should feel pressured to offer these and we will ensure all students are able to progress fairly."

It comes after last year’s A-Level exam chaos in which thousands of students had their results downgraded from their predicted grades due to a controversial algorithm.

Ofqual announced a U-turn and allowed students to have their teachers' predictions meanwhile the exam regulator’s head stepped down amidst the fiasco.

Unions: ‘Grading system must not repeat 2020 chaos’

Teaching unions react to the exams announcement

Patrick Roach, General Secretary of NASUWT, said cancelling exams is the “only sensible course of action”.

He added: “We cannot risk a repeat of the chaos that engulfed this year’s exam results. Pupils and teachers now need urgent clarity and further detail of how the arrangements for teacher assessed grades will work.”

Schools and colleges have been forced to close until at least mid-February after the Government announced the country’s third draconian lockdown.

Mr Williamson said teachers will be legally required to provide up to five hours of online education a day during the third national lockdown.

He stressed that schools had not "suddenly become unsafe" and closing them down was not a decision that the Government ever wanted to take.

The Secretary of State said: "We must curb the escalating cases of Covid throughout the country and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.

"That is why today I am setting out the contingency plans I had prepared but had hoped (I would) never had to implement."

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown