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Headteachers ‘delighted’ at U-turn on A-level and GCSE controversy

PUBLISHED: 17:06 17 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:25 18 August 2020

The government has made a U-turn on its controversial A-Level and GCSE algorithm  Picture: RUI VIERIA/PA WIRE

The government has made a U-turn on its controversial A-Level and GCSE algorithm Picture: RUI VIERIA/PA WIRE

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Suffolk education leaders say they are “delighted common sense has prevailed” after the government scrapped a controversial system which downgraded some hard-earned A-level and GCSE results.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the change  Picture: PHIL MORELYGeoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the change Picture: PHIL MORELY

The changes come after the government came under heavy fire from teachers and students over its “robust” system, which saw almost 40% of A-level grades reduced from teachers’ predictions last week.

Conservative MPs also spoke out against the controversial algorithm, which was devised by exam regulator Ofqual.

The Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads (SASH) had also written a letter to education secretary Gavin Williamson imploring him to change course.

Now, results will be based on teachers’ assessments. The change will also apply for GCSE results, which will be released on Thursday.

Dave Lee-Allan, headteacher of Stowmarket High School and chairman of Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads Picture: GREGG BROWNDave Lee-Allan, headteacher of Stowmarket High School and chairman of Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads Picture: GREGG BROWN

Dave Lee-Allan, headteacher of Stowmarket High School and chairman of SASH, said he is pleased a system “no-one wanted” has gone.

Mr Lee-Allan said: “I’m delighted that common sense has prevailed, and all this pressure applied nationwide has been listened to.

“Now we need to know straight away about what happens next, as there are students out there who didn’t get a university place. We need absolute clarity on what is next for them.

“I am very much proud of my students – the stories seen nationally and the shocking examples have been horrible to see and now we have to hope that wrongs will be made right.

“Some students may still be disappointed, but nevertheless the professionalism of teachers and the schools will prove stronger than an algorithm.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and former headteacher of Bury St Edmunds’ King Edward VI School, welcomed the decision “to put an end to the grading fiasco”.
He said: “Students, parents, and teachers will breathe a sigh of relief after days of confusion and dithering by ministers.
“This decision will, of course, mean that there is grade inflation this year, but that is a small price to pay for remedying the manifest injustices produced by the statistical model used to moderate grades.
“It will provide A-level students with the relief of an immediate solution, and give GCSE students the comfort of knowing that they will not suffer the same injustices in the results due to be published this week.”

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Jack Abbott, Labour spokesman for education at Suffolk County Council, described the earlier situation was “bitterly disappointing and totally avoidable”.

Mr Abbott added: “This a victory for the inspiring young people who spoke out against this injustice, but it shouldn’t have taken a week of confusion and anxiety for this decision to be taken by the government.

“It is important to note that this is far from over - the chaos around university admissions has been heightened and we still don’t have answers over BTecs.

“The government cannot simply shift the burden and wash their hands of this – this mess is of their own making.”

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt added he believes the government has made the right decision to U-turn plans.

He said: “Clearly the past few days have been regrettable and I’m well aware of the stress and anxiety this has caused a number of my young constituents who have worked very hard for their A-levels.

“However, in light of the events over the past few days I think this was the correct decision.

“Wherever exam results are handed out it won’t always be good news for everyone and there will always be some that will be disappointed – however at the very least the whole system needs to be underpinned by a sense of fairness.

“I do have concerns about grade inflation and clearly teachers predicting grades isn’t the same as students actually sitting and passing exams, but in the absence of exams and the shortcomings of Ofqual’s algorithm, there appears to be no alternative.”

Roger Taylor, Ofqual chairman, said he is sorry for the “uncertainty and anxiety” students faced.

Mr Taylor said: “Our goal has always been to protect the trust that the public rightly has in educational qualifications.

“But we recognise that while the approach we adopted attempted to achieve these goals, we also appreciate that it has also caused real anguish and damaged public confidence.

“Expecting schools to submit appeals where grades were incorrect placed a burden on teachers when they need to be preparing for the new term and has created uncertainty and anxiety for students. For all of that, we are extremely sorry.”


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