Exam results fiasco won’t recur next year, Williamson assures teachers

Education secretary Gavin Williamson assured teachers the process would be fair and consistent for all pupils

The process of awarding GCSE, A-level and other exam results this summer “wasn’t good enough” and will not recur next year, education secretary Gavin Williamson has assured teachers.

“The process of awarding results over the summer wasn’t good enough,” Mr Williamson told the Schools and Academies Show in a prerecorded statement. “I’m deeply sorry for this, particularly for all those students who were affected. I’ve spoken at length about why we followed the advice we did and the actions we took to have fair and robust grades for the qualifications they were not able to sit.

“We have a course taken stock from what we learned so that there can be no repeats in the future.”

Mr Williamson said he would soon set out guidance for how he and the Department for Education will ensure fairness and consistency for pupils undertaking end-of-year examinations in 2021.

“My officials have been discussing with Ofqual, school and college leaders, teaching unions, exam boards, and others to work through what other measures we need to put in place to make sure exams run smoothly.

“That will include looking very carefully at how exams are graded, as well as what we can do to make exams less daunting for students, with the objective of fairness to those young people at the heart of every decision we take. We will announce this further support very soon.”

Ofqual has already consulted on and revised the scope of what is assessed to reduce the workload for students, teachers, and of course candidates, as well as to comply with a public health situation
– Gavin Williamson

Mr Williamson restated his commitment to examinations next year, in contrast to the decision taken in Wales to opt for classroom-based assessments. “Exams are undoubtedly the best way for young people to prove what they have learned and what they can do. They give young people the foundations that will set them up for the rest of their lives, giving them the chance to move on to further academic study if they want to or to follow one of our equally high standard higher or technical options, such as an apprenticeship or T-level.”

Despite criticism that his decision to extend teaching terms this summer by three weeks was not sufficient to prepare students for exams, Mr Williamson doubled down on his solution to missed teaching time since March 2020, adding: “Ofqual has already consulted on and revised the scope of what is assessed to reduce the workload for students, teachers, and of course candidates, as well as to comply with a public health situation.”

Earlier this week, GSA president Jane Prescott criticised the three-week extension as insufficient.

Mr Williamson concluded his speech in thanking teachers “for everything that you continue to do”.


Read more: GSA president pays tribute to ‘generosity and selflessness’ of headteachers this year

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