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Wed, 30 September 2020

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Labour hit out at A-level 'fiasco' after almost 40% of results downgraded

Labour hit out at A-level 'fiasco' after almost 40% of results downgraded

Ministers have been urged to correct "injustices" in the exam system

4 min read

Labour branded the handling of A-levels by ministers a "fiasco" after more than a third of results were downgraded.

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green called on the Government to correct the "injustice" faced by pupils who have seen their grades lowered after exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And the party wants fees to be waived for any schools and colleges appealing grades.

It follows confirmation that 35.6% of marks in England were adjusted down by one grade, with a further 3.3% downgraded by two and 0.2% reduced by three.

An estimated 280,000 grades were impacted by the 'standardisation' model which saw examiners apply schools' historic performance to predictions provided by teachers in an effort to maintain consistency with previous results.

The Scottish Government this week bowed to protests over the way grades have been calculated there, with Scottish results to now be based on teachers’ predicted grades without an additional moderating process.

In a bid to stave off a similar row in England, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said students would now be allowed to appeal their moderated grades to request the use of mock exam results if required.

They can also choose to take exams in the autumn instead if they believe their moderated grades are unfair as part of a "triple lock" policy.

But Ms Green hit out at the process, saying the Government's handling of exams had been "chaotic".

"Today is always an anxious day for pupils and parents across the country. That anxiety is far worse this year because of the fiasco caused by the Conservative Government," she said.

"I wholeheartedly congratulate those young people who have received the grades they deserve after working so hard.

"But across the country, many young people will be opening their results today to find grades which undermine their work and their potential.

"It is a huge injustice that pupils will see their results downgraded just because of their postcode.

"We will look at the breakdown of the results, but it is clear the government’s approach to exams has been chaotic."

She added: "Ministers must act urgently to correct the injustice faced by so many young people today.

"Students must be able to lodge their own appeals if they haven't got the grade they deserved and admissions teams must be forced to be more flexible.

"No student should see their dreams slip away because of this government's inaction."

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Williamson defended the "triple lock", saying: "We're not going to be changing this system again."

He added: "We believe that we put in place in terms of the triple lock, in terms of the actions that we've taken, a system that will able to put its arm around those youngsters where there has been a grade that is unfair on them and able to put that right.

"But we do have to have checks and balances within the awarding of grades.

"And we can't be in a situation where there aren't those checks and balances.

"Because you will see situations where quite simply, if you don't have those checks and balances in there, there's going to be even greater unfairness to students, especially to those schools and youngsters who absolutely followed the rules to the absolute letter.

"And they will be the ones who will be disadvantaged if we were to change the system again."

OFQUAL WORKING 'URGENTLY' ON APPEALS SYSTEM

Exams regulator Ofqual has said pupils who get their results on Thursday and want to appeal will have to wait until next week before they find out how they can do so.

In a statement it said: "We understand why the Government has wanted to provide some additional assurance for students, by confirming that evidence from valid mock exams can be considered as part of an appeal.

"We are working urgently to operationalise this as fairly as possible and to determine what standards of evidence will be required for the appeal. We will provide more detail early next week.

"We will continue to do everything possible to ensure students achieve grades that are as fair as possible in the circumstances this summer.”

The SNP, whose adminstration in Scotland faced their own storm over exam results, said the Conservatives had been "quick off the mark to play petty party politics and demand resignations" north of the border.

The party's education spokesperson Carol Monaghan said: "Now it’s the Tories' turn, and they are refusing to take action to help England’s young people, some of whom may be having their chance of coming to university in Scotland destroyed by the Tories' actions.

"This year's exam results faced unprecedented challenges and impacted students not just in Scotland, but right across the UK.

"However, rather than engaging constructively, the Scottish Tories chose to politicise the issue for their own ends. Their deafening silence over calls for resignations in Westminster is telling and reveals their true colours of putting politics ahead of people's livelihoods."

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