Gavin Williamson outlines support package after GCSEs and A-Levels scrapped

6 January 2021, 07:32 | Updated: 6 January 2021, 13:52

Gavin Williamson will outline a support package in the Commons on Wednesday
Gavin Williamson will outline a support package in the Commons on Wednesday. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Gavin Williamson is outlining a support package for young people after students in England were told this year's GCSE and A-Levels will be cancelled.

The education secretary began giving a statement in the Commons at around 1:20pm on Wednesday after Boris Johnson announced school closures as part of the third national lockdown.

He said the exams regulator Ofqual will work with the Department for Education (DfE) in coming up with teacher assessed grades for pupils who will now not be sitting their GCSEs and A-Levels.

Ahead of Mr Williamson's address to MPs, the DfE said it recognises this is "an anxious time for students who have been working hard towards their exams".

The department added: "The government position is that we will not be asking students to sit GCSE and A-levels.

"Working alongside Ofqual, the department will consult on how to award all pupils a grade that reflects the hard work they've done and will continue to do."

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It is the second year running that GCSEs and A-Levels have been scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic, while schools, colleges and universities have all been forced to provide remote learning.

However, primaries and secondaries will remain open to vulnerable children and those of key workers.

In his address to the nation on Monday, the prime minister acknowledged that shutting schools meant "it's not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer, as normal".

Following up Mr Johnson's comments, the education secretary said: "It is now vital that we support our young people at home, including making sure all students are receiving the best possible remote education, and that those students who were due to take exams can still progress to their next stage of education or training."

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What did Gavin Williamson going to say?

The education secretary offered support to families in the shape of improved remote learning provision and alternative arrangements for exams.

To support remote learning, the Oak National Academy was established last year and is backed by the government, with 10,000 online, teacher-created lessons available, offering a curriculum covering reception to year 11.

The government has already scaled up its devices scheme, buying more than one million laptops and tablets for disadvantaged young people.

However, Mr Williamson is under pressure to increase that number, with Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey demanding "every pupil in England has access to a laptop or tablet computer".

On Monday, more than 50,000 were delivered to schools across the country while another 100,000 are expected to be handed out during the first week of term.

The DfE has also partnered with some of the UK's leading mobile network operators to provide free data to disadvantaged families until July, while schools can request more via a Get Help with Technology service launched last month.

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