Pupils in areas hit the hardest by covid may be given higher marks

Students in areas hit the hardest by coronavirus may be given higher marks to ensure they are not held back by pandemic, exam board chief says

  • Colin Hughes, chief executive of AQA, said grades boost was being considered
  • But noted this could cause problems and end up being unfair to poorer pupils
  • Welsh government has already axed exams for next summer due to covid impact 

Colin Hughes, chief executive of AQA, said a grades boost for certain GCSE and A-level students next summer was among the options being considered

Students in areas hit hardest by covid may be given higher marks to ensure they are not disadvantaged, an exam board boss said today. 

Colin Hughes, chief executive of AQA, said a grades boost for certain GCSE and A-level students next summer was among the options being considered to manage the impact of the pandemic. 

The move would copy the ‘special consideration’ currently given to some pupils who have been ‘disadvantaged due to illness or avoidable circumstances’. 

‘One of the things that’s being talked about is the notion that we could apply some kind of regional special consideration,’ Mr Hughes told the Times Education Supplement.

‘So this particular region was hit really hard or even this particular school had it really hard.’

Mr Hughes – whose exam board covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said the idea of regional grading could run into several problems and actually end up harming poorer pupils. 

He asked: ‘Is it fair that in order to do something for students in a rundown inner-city area comprehensive and just down the road there’s a fantastic private school and those students will get bumped up from a B to an A?’

The Welsh Government has cancelled exams next year because disruption means it is ‘impossible to guarantee a level playing field’. 

Ministers are facing calls to scrap A-Level and GCSE exams in England next summer after Wales axed its 2021 tests to help pupils affected by lockdowns.

Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams said that next summer’s papers would be replaced by coursework and assessments to ensure ‘fairness’ in the system amid ongoing disruption to schools.

She said the ongoing pandemic made it ‘impossible to guarantee a level playing field for exams to take place’ and the decision ‘removes pressures from learners’.

Wales is the latest UK country to halt its exams programme for next year, after the summer 2020 grading system in England and Scotland descended into farce over computer-calculated grades.

The move would copy the ‘special consideration’ currently given to some pupils who have been ‘disadvantaged due to illness or avoidable circumstances’. File photo 

Scotland has said its National 5 exams – equivalent to GCSEs – will be replaced by assessments next year.

So far exams in England have been delayed by three weeks to allow students to catch up, despite union demands for them to be completely abandoned.

Sarah Mulholland, head of policy at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said there was already a north/south divide in terms of attendance because of varying Covid rates.

‘What the Welsh education minister has realised – unlike Gavin Williamson – is that we’re at risk of repeating the same mistake we saw on results day this summer unless we change course now,’ she said.

‘It is either naive or wilfully ignorant of the Government to pretend that there is any hope of achieving a fair, level playing-field for pupils when there are huge disparities both in attendance and a child’s ability to work from home.’

But No10 refused to follow Wales’s lead. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said today: ‘There is no change in our own position in relation to exams.

‘I think we have set out that they will take place slightly later this year to give students more time to prepare.

‘We fully understand that they have experience considerable disruption and it is right that we give them and their teachers that extra time.’ 

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