Teacher assessments to replace GCSE and A-Level exams, Education Secretary confirms

6 January 2021, 13:33 | Updated: 6 January 2021, 15:09

By Megan White

Teacher assessed grades will be used for GCSE and A-Level results this summer after exams were cancelled, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed.

Teacher assessments will replace the traditional exams, unlike last year, where a much maligned algorithm was used to decide grades.

Mr Williamson told the House of Commons: "I can confirm now that 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."

It is the second year running that GCSEs and A-Levels have been scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Education Secretary said he expected schools to provide between three and five hours teaching a day, depending on the child's age, and said: "If parents feel their child's school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and, failing that, report the matter to Ofsted."

Announcing the cancellation, Mr Williamson said: "Last year, all four nations of the United Kingdom found their arrangements for awarding grades did not deliver what they needed, with the impact felt painfully by students and their parents.

"Although exams are the fairest way we have of assessing what a student knows, the impact of this pandemic now means that it is not possible to have these exams this year.

"I can confirm that GCSEs, A-levels and AS-level exams will not go ahead this summer. This year, we're going to put our trust in teachers, rather than algorithms."

Mr Williamson said a form of teacher-assessed grades will be used, with training to ensure grades are awarded "fairly and consistently".

He told the Commons: "The department and Ofqual had already worked up a range of contingency options.

"While the details will need to be fine-tuned in consultation with Ofqual, the exam boards and teaching representative organisations.

"I can confirm now that 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."

Mr Williamson said schools in England are "much better prepared than last March" to implement home-learning.

He said: "We are far better placed to cope with it than we were last March.

"We are now better prepared to deliver online learning, this is an important step forward in supporting children to make the progress with their education that they so desperately need, and we'll also do what we can to help their parents."

He added: "We have set out clear, legally binding requirements for schools to provide high-quality remote education. This is mandatory for all state-funded schools and will be enforced by Ofsted.

"We expect schools to provide between three and five hours teaching a day, depending on the child's age. If parents feel their child's school is not providing suitable remote education they should first raise their concerns with the teacher or headteacher and, failing that, report the matter to Ofsted."

On laptops, he said: "We've purchased more than one million laptops and tablets and have already delivered over 560,000 of those to schools and local authorities with an extra 100,000 being distributed this week alone. By the end of next week, we will have delivered three-quarters-of-a-million devices."

He also said "schools have not suddenly become unsafe" and that the "last thing he wanted to do" was close schools.

In a statement, he told the Commons: "The last thing any education secretary wants to do is announce that schools will close, and this is not a decision that the Government ever wanted to take.

"I'd like to reassure everyone that our schools have not suddenly become unsafe, but limiting the number of people who attend them is essential when the Covid rates are climbing as they are now.

"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."