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Government’s U-turn on exam grading

Published: Tuesday 18th August 2020

The government’s U-turn on exam grading has led to widespread criticism and calls for an inquiry. This U-turn comes after exams regulator Ofqual downgraded around 40% of all A-level results this year. However, the grades were awarded using an algorithm based on a school’s prior grades. The result has been chaos, with some students marked down by more than two grades.

The knock-on effects of this decision quickly became apparent. Furthermore, the problem increased when students in disadvantaged areas were being more affected than others. The whole system has now been scrapped. Therefore, students are now to be graded according to teacher predictions. The government had intended to use the same system for GCSE and AS students. This plan has now also been stopped.

U-turn road sign with blue sky and clouds in the background.

We are sorry

Gavin Williamson is the current Secretary of State for Education. Mr Williamson spoke to the media and apologised for the mess caused by his department. His apology was echoed by Ofqual Chairman Roger Taylor. Mr Taylor said sorry to young people for the anxiety caused to them. Mr. Williamson now says that mock exam results will not be used to predict grades. The decision follows widespread criticism that mock exam grades are not consistent enough across different schools. Every one of the approximate 280,000 grades downgraded last week have now been scrapped.

Is government’s U-turn on exam grading too late?

The chaos caused by the algorithm has led to widespread criticism of the government. This includes Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who called the issue a “complete fiasco”. He described the government’s U-turn on exam grading as, “a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard this past week.” However, some experts claim the U-turn is now creating new issues. For example, many universities have already awarded places to students and say they are now full.

Female student looking at a laptop computer and celebrating to highlight Government’s U-turn on exam grading

I can breathe again

Many students were considering taking a gap year because of the chaos. However, students across the country were celebrating news of the government’s U-Turn on exam grading. Jess Johnson is an A-level student and lost her £16,000 scholarship because of downgraded grades. Ms Johnson says she is “thankful” and “excited” about the U-turn. This relief was mirrored by Alaa Muhammad, whose predicted grades fell from AAB to EED. Ms Muhhamad said to the BBC, “I was so hopeless a couple of days ago and now I feel like I can finally breathe again.” Ms Muhamad hopes to follow her dreams of studying medicine.

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