Covid: School-based assessments to replace cancelled GCSEs and A-levels in England, Gavin Williamson confirms

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

GCSE and A-level exams will be replaced with school-based assessments this year, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed.

Mr Williamson confirmed the exams will be cancelled in England this year.

After 2020's exams were cancelled, students were given grades using an algorithm, however, many felt this penalised more disadvantaged students and the government scrapped this method and awarded grades based on teachers' assessments of their pupils' capabilities.

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand on how teacher assessments will provide students with their grades:

Mr Williamson was heavily criticised over the government's handling of the changes in what was seen by many to be a blundering week of mixed messaging and U-turns.

In a nod to this, Mr Williamson told the Commons that this year the government would "put trust in teachers rather than algorithms"

He continued: "While the details will need to be fine-tuned by Ofqual [the exams regulator]...I can confirm that I wish to use teacher-assessed grades that are awarded fairly and consistently."

Mr Williamson also told MPs that SATs exams will also not be going ahead this year across England.

Btec students in England were, on Tuesday, told that their schools would be responsible for deciding if vocational exams went ahead this week.

It is not clear yet whether the same teacher assessed grades process also applies to those who did not take their BTEC exams.

ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand reports: "Some students decided to sit BTECs this morning and are now wondering whether they shouldn’t have."

Mr Williamson announced a financial support package for schools in England after schools and colleges were forced to close to most students as the country enters lockdown 3.0.

The majority of students - excluding vulnerable children and children of key workers - have returned to remote learning after England went back in to Covid lockdown.

Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said it is "disappointing" Mr Williamson has made another U-turn, adding it is "children, families and education staff across the country that pay the price for his incompetence".

End of year exams for learners taking GCSEs, AS levels or A levels have been cancelled for 2021. Credit: PA images

Ms Green asks Mr Williamson to ensure that every child who needs a device will get one and that the mobile data deal start immediately.

"I wanted exams to go ahead," she said, before adding the cancellation was "predictable".

Mr Williamson also said the Department of Education stepped up digital support to parents and that there will be 14 weeks of educational programmes and lessons from the BBC to households across the country.

The education secretary confirmed the government has purchased more than 1,000,000 laptops to be distributed to schools.

In a televised address on Monday announcing England’s third national lockdown, Boris Johnson acknowledged that shutting schools meant "it’s not possible or fair for all exams to go ahead this summer, as normal".