This week A-Level and GCSE students will be receiving their results. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the largest school leadership union NAHT, said:
“All students receiving their results this week deserve our congratulations. This is the culmination of a huge amount of work in the most challenging of circumstances. Students have shown great resilience and determination this year. For each individual student, their grades are a passport to the next phase of their education, training or employment.
“Students, parents, education providers and employers have every reason to be confident in this year’s results, even though there have been no exams. This year’s grades are based on students’ actual work, assessed by their teachers, moderated and quality assured. There are no algorithms this year, just human effort and human expert judgement.
“Talk of grade inflation is unhelpful. The results in 2021 cannot be easily compared to any other year. The methods used to generate them are very different to normal years when exams take place, and even to the processes used to award grades in 2020. The grades awarded in 2021 are a holistic judgement based on work which students have produced.
“These evidence-based decisions are very different to the normal way grades are awarded through exams. Many students will be able to demonstrate higher levels of attainment through shorter assessments taken throughout their course than in an exam on one particular day in June. Students should be confident that they are getting the grades they deserve and that reflect the standard of achievement they have demonstrated.
“In making any comparisons, between years or between different groups of students, care must be taken not to come to quick and simplistic conclusions for differences. Differences in results between types of school or groups of students are very complex issues and, in the circumstances, will reflect issues of educational inequality which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Government and Ofqual made the policy decisions and exam boards created the detailed guidance on awarding grades this year. Schools and colleges implemented those processes with professionalism and integrity. It was obvious to schools and colleges last summer that contingency arrangements would be needed in 2021, and yet it took until the end of March to produce the details for generating grades in the absence of exams. School and college staff are to be commended for the way they have managed to bring a sense of calm and rigour to proceedings. The government’s contribution was to create an unnecessary layer of risk and instability by failing to act swiftly enough.”
First published 10 August 2021