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Forgotten Independent Students Accuse Gavin Williamson Of "Toying With Their Futures" After Cancelling Exams

Forgotten Independent Students Accuse Gavin Williamson Of 'Toying With Their Futures' After Cancelling Exams

Private students have hit out at Gavin Williamson's decision to cancel exams

4 min read

Thousands of independent learners and resit students have demanded the opportunity to sit their exams after they accused Gavin Williamson of "toying with their futures".

Students studying independently outside of a school environment, and those who were planning to resit exams after being downgraded in last summer's exams debacle, have called on the education secretary to consider offering limited in-person exams to those unable to rely on teacher provided grades.

Earlier this month, Mr Williamson announced all GCSE and A-level exams would be cancelled this year with teachers asked to use coursework and other assessments to provide marks, saying it was "time to trust teachers, not algorithms"

But the announcement provoked anger among thousands of pupils not studying with teachers – including those who were left with poor results following last year's exam scandal and private students – who would not be able to obtain school-based assessments.

Speaking to PoliticsHome, one student who was heavily downgraded by last year's exam system said they had already taken retaken one A-level during last year's October resits, upgrading their 'C' grade to an 'A'.

The student who said they had missed last year's cut-off for applying to university had planned to sit their other exams this summer after the department had promised these students a further opportunity to the assessments.

"With the promise of 2021 exams, I was hopeful that I could redeem myself in my other two A Levels," they said.

But they said they now felt "completely ignored and...overlooked" following Mr Williamson's decision.

"It's clear that the government thinks of us as afterthoughts," they said. "We're not just going to sit back whilst they toy with our futures. We want a solution that works for everybody."

Another student, who was forced to take several years off school due to a long-term illness, had planned to apply for university last year but was refused any grades because they had no teacher assessed coursework.

"It was absolutely abhorrent how me and my peers, who are private candidates, home-schooled students and independent learners, were treated. It meant that we were forced to miss out on going to university in 2020," they said.

"They tried to fix this by scheduling exams in autumn 2020, with the results being made available in December/January.

"But this was far too late for students who wanted to go to university in 2020 obviously. Many didn't even sit the exams in autumn as we were promised that we would have the chance to sit them in the summer of 2021."

They added: "I feel utterly deflated. I just want to sit my exams and get grades to go to university in September 2021."

Another student, who had been given a conditional offer to study medicine at their "dream university", received poor grades under the algorithm system and was denied an appeal because their awarding teacher had left the college before Mr Williamson announced his U-turn to offer teacher-assessed grades.

"I was left with very little support," they said.

"I decided to put my life on hold for another year and resit my exams this summer as the university kindly reinstated my offer. I made the decision not to give up on my dreams and not settle for a grade I strongly believed was too low.

"I put an extreme amount of effort into revising everyday so that I am able to move on with my education. I am absolutely devastated for private and resit candidates that exams have been cancelled again this year as they are, in vast majority of cases, not able to get a [teacher-assigned] grade."

Mr Williamson is expected to be grilled on the issue when he appears before the Education Select Committee later today with a department spokesperson saying private candidates would be given "consideration" in an ongoing consultation with exams regulator, Ofqual.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green, said: "The government's chaotic approach to last summer's GCSE and A-level grades let down private and resit students who were left without grades and unable to move onto the next stage of their education, training or employment.

"This cannot happen again. Labour has called for a Plan B on exams for months and the government must urgently set out a credible replacement for exams, giving families certainty and ensuring that private and resit students are not neglected again."

A spokesperson from the Department for Education, said: "The autumn exam series was a crucial part of ensuring fairness for students to try to improve the grade they received in summer or who were unable to receive one.

"The details of the approach on exams will be developed in consultation with the exam boards and the sector. This will include consideration to private candidates and the need to develop plans that work for them."

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