Coronavirus: award GCSEs on predicted grades, say UCL experts

The government is expected to announce its plan for post-16 and post-18 exams on Friday 20 March

Researchers at UCL’s Institute of Education say the government should award pupils GCSEs based on their predicted grades, after it was announced that all summer exams had been cancelled following the coronavirus pandemic.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson is expected to announce the government’s plans for students who will now not be able to sit their A-level or GCSE exams on Friday 20 March.

The researchers from the UCL Institute of Education’s Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO) say awarding GCSEs based on predicted grades is a better solution than rescheduling exams for later in the year, which could negatively impact children, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

“On Wednesday, the Department for Education took the extraordinary step of cancelling GCSE exams and some children will suffer the consequences of this throughout their lifetime. It is obviously a very tricky situation, and any solution the government comes up with will be less than perfect,” said CEPEO’s Prof John Jerrim.

“Our collective opinion is that children in the 2019/20 cohort should be awarded GCSEs based upon their predicted grades. This has the obvious advantage of being relatively cheap and easy to do. Weighing up the different options this seems to be as fair as the alternatives.”

The Department for Education took the extraordinary step of cancelling GCSE exams and some children will suffer the consequences of this throughout their lifetime
– Prof John Jerrim, UCL

The academics say that the government is likely to be concerned about awarding predicted grades because they might not be able to regulate grade inflation.

Prof Jerrim said government could ensure fairness and protect the standard of GCSE and A-level results by comparing school’s predicted grades with results achieved in previous years, that way identifying the schools which might not predict their students’ results accurately.

Online exams or coursework are not viable options, researchers added, for reasons of data security, monitoring and comparability. Universities and sixth form places would need to be awarded before the autumn, meaning a solution is needed sooner rather than later.


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