The Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank has recommended that school pupils in England should take rigorous “back-up” externally set assessments in the place of mock exams next spring, in case GCSE and A-level exams cannot be held in the summer due to COVID-19.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said: “We must be confident that the continued disruption to education this year does not result in the awarding of grades that do not fairly reflect students true ability. Much more needs to be done to take into account significantly different levels of disruption so that students can have confidence that the grades they are awarded in 2021 are fair. Comparison of attendance rates between primary and secondary schools since September suggests that older children have been more affected by the rise in infections. Unfortunately, that means that pupils in examination years are more likely to have their education disrupted as this situation continues.
“NAHT supports the use of greater optionality in exam papers as students should be assessed on what they have been taught, not what they have missed. And some grade inflation for the 2021 cohort should be allowed to ensure that individual students are not disadvantaged in relation to past and future cohorts.
“But putting in an additional national series of exams in the spring term is not the right contingency plan. All of the issues surrounding the summer series – papers, marking, grading, optionality, attendance – would need to be addressed and a high stakes series in the spring would negate any benefit of the three week delay to the start of the summer series.
“Schools and colleges have already planned their mock exams and other staged assessments for students over the duration of their courses, which could be used with other agreed evidence such as coursework, as a back-up for those unable to sit any exams in the summer."
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First published 09 November 2020