UK/August 12, 2020/By JOSH WHITE and DANIEL MARTIN FOR THE DAILY MAIL/Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/
Students were given a ‘triple lock’ on their A-level and GCSE grades last night as ministers ripped up the system in the wake of the Scottish exams fiasco.
Just 36 hours before A-level results are released, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said students could now opt for the grades they got in their mock exams.
It means A-level students can choose between the marks they get awarded tomorrow – which are based on teacher assessments and a computer-generated ‘standardisation’ model – or their mock results.
If they are not happy with either of those, they can sit the exam in the autumn, with the Government covering the cost for schools.
Mr Williamson was forced to offer the unprecedented ‘triple lock’, which will also apply to GCSE pupils, after Nicola Sturgeon performed a U-turn on Scotland’s exam results.
Last week, Scottish pupils sitting the equivalent of A-levels received their computer-moderated grades under a similar system to that being used in the rest of the UK.
However, 125,000 results – about one in four – were downgraded from what teachers had predicted, leading to an outcry and complaints that disadvantaged pupils had been hardest hit.
Yesterday, the Scottish government opted for a humiliating U-turn and said that despite concerns over grade inflation, all results would now revert to those that teachers had predicted.
Government ministers are thought to be nervous about a similar row erupting in England when A-level results are released tomorrow.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has been forced to offer an unprecedented ‘triple lock’ in the wake of the Scottish exams fiasco
This week Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured during a visit to St Joseph’s Catholic School in Upminster, London) insisted the country had a ‘moral duty’ to reopen schools next month
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit to the construction site of Hereford County Hospital in Herefordshire
Mr Williamson said England would not allow teachers’ predicted grades to stand, because it would lead to unacceptable grade inflation from the previous year.
He insisted his new system would ensure pupils received the ‘fairest results possible’ after the summer exams were cancelled due to the pandemic.
The last-minute change will lead to further accusations that the Government has not got a grip of yet another aspect of the crisis, following failures over care homes, schools, testing, travel and the provision of PPE to NHS staff.
Mr Williamson said: ‘Every young person waiting for their results wants to know that they have been treated fairly.
‘By ensuring students have the safety net of their mock results as well as the chance of sitting autumn exams, we are creating a triple-lock process to ensure they can have the confidence to take the next steps forward in work or education.’
Schools will need to demonstrate to exams regulator Ofqual that mocks were taken in exam-like conditions, but the process is expected to be significantly streamlined.
The Government said it would set aside £30 million to fund autumn exams for all schools, easing the burden on budgets already stretched to deal with coronavirus measures.
‘The SNP failed the test, but we have done more revision,’ one government source said.
‘This decision in Scotland was a bad decision. It means that in Scotland there are now students walking round with inflated grades that no one will take seriously.
‘It’s not fair for students this year and it’s not fair for students last year. Our system is fundamentally fairer.’
In Scotland, outrage was prompted by the system resulting in deprived students being treated more than twice as harshly as the best-off.
Fighting for his political career yesterday, SNP education secretary John Swinney said the standardisation would be unwound.
‘We set out to ensure that the system was fair. We set out to ensure it was credible. But we did not get it right for all young people,’ he said.
Only days earlier, Mr Swinney had justified the exams procedure by revealing that without it, top grades would have surged by up to an unprecedented 14 per cent.
Yesterday’s decision means this inflation will come to pass – and raises questions as to how next year’s students will be treated, and whether last year’s pupils will protest.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: ‘They have gone for the most generous option they could have gone for.
‘But the decision results in a whole load of questions about whether other exams were fair – for the people that took exams last year and the ones who will take exams next year.
Anyone who thinks this announcement removes any unfairness is plain wrong. In fact, it introduced new unfairnesses for other people.’
Despite the concerns, government critics lined up to demand a similar about-turn in England.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government risked ‘robbing a generation of young people of their future’ unless the grading system in England was also abandoned.
National Union of Students president Larissa Kennedy agreed ‘the UK Government should follow the lead of Scotland by scrapping moderated grades’.
Geoff Barton, leader of the Association of School and College Leaders, said Scotland was now ‘out of kilter with the rest of the UK where standardisation is being used’.