Exam paper

@UKLabour demands plan for 2022 exams by September as analysis reveals year 10 pupils have missed one in four days of GCSE teaching this year

Labour is today [Tuesday] demanding the Government set out plans for 2022 assessments by the return to school on 1 September, as new analysis reveals that the average year 10 pupil has missed one in four days of face-to-face GCSE or BTEC teaching this year.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told the Education Select Committee that changes will be made to next year’s exams but has given no further details.

At an Edge Foundation event on reforming assessments, Shadow Education Secretary, Kate Green MP will set the deadline of 1 September for clarity on 2022 assessments while urging Conservative Ministers not to repeat the mistakes of the last two academic years.

Green will restate Labour’s concerns about ‘striking inconsistencies’ in the process that schools and colleges have used to assess pupils’ grades after the Government failed to provide clear direction on what work should be used.

At a Labour roundtable on exams last month, year 11 and 13 students talked of the frustration and stress they have felt about this year’s assessment process, including seeing friends at other schools or colleges having very different grading processes.

A-level student Ethan said: “guidance wasn't given till so late on and the fact everyone has had a different experience, being left in the dark just shows the extent of the inequality across education.”

Fellow A-level student, Aga highlighted the lack of guidance coming from Government to schools left teachers stressed and unable to support their students: “honestly I felt sorry for teachers too because I know a lot of mine were frustrated with the lack of clear guidance. They wanted the best for us but had to wait for instructions”.

Green will urge Ministers to work with exam boards and the education sector urgently to deliver system that is genuinely fair for all pupils next summer. She will also call for the Government to set out a comprehensive recovery plan which would help to level the playing field for the pupils who have missed most learning.

Labour has launched a recovery plan which would enable all young people to bounce back from the pandemic. Under Labour’s plan all pupils who need it would be able to access tutoring with additional academic help targeted at pupils on free school meals who are most likely to have missed school and struggled to learn remotely over the last year.

Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

"The Conservatives’ poor planning and preparation has created a second year of exam chaos.

“Uncertainty just piles pressure on pupils and teachers, so the longer ministers dither and delay, the harder it will be to set a level playing field and ensure every pupil gets fair grades.

"Ministers need to learn from their mistakes and set out a plan by the time pupils return to school in September.” 

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:  

“September 1st is the absolute latest that information should be provided about qualifications in 2022. There still hasn’t been any detail nor a public consultation, and we are already in July. That is unacceptable. 

"As the consultation must be at least two weeks long, and the government and Ofqual will then have to consider all responses, it is now almost certain that final proposals will come, at the earliest, in the summer holidays. That the consultation has not yet taken place, speaks to the Government's blatant and continued disregard for the workload of education professionals. Timely planning for teaching in the next academic year is surely essential. 

"Any consultation must also consider contingency plans. The government has now failed multiple times to prepare contingencies in case exams cannot take place. No matter what your preferred Plan A, to refuse to prepare a Plan B in case exams cannot happen in the midst of a pandemic is sheer, wilful negligence. Government's blind faith meant that in 2021 education professionals were left to pick up the pieces, whilst being given no resources to free them up to actually do the work necessary for grading. 

"Fortunately, the incredible efforts of students and educators alike have meant that every school and college’s grading procedure has been signed off by the exam boards. It has also meant it is now possible for samples of the evidence used for grades at every school and college in the country to be checked by the exam boards. 

"The fact we are at this stage is almost miraculous but students and education professionals across the country should never have been put in this position in the first place. It is quite right that as a nation we should hope for the best outcome, but a Government must also plan for the worst. It is irresponsible to do otherwise. With no further information yet about 2022, we are seriously concerned that the Government is yet again pinning everything on hope." 

With just a few days of the summer term remaining, school leaders are calling for clarity from government about what will be expected of schools, colleges and their students in the upcoming academic year.

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“School leaders are clear that the decisions about adaptations for next year’s exams and assessments and the contingency plans should exams be disrupted, should be announced before the summer holidays.

“The details of those plans must be made available by the start of the autumn term so that they can be taken into account in teachers planning for the new academic year and have the desired impact on students’ learning and teacher workload.”

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