'No algorithms whatsoever': Williamson confirms GCSE and A-Level exams will be replaced by teacher assessments

  • Video report by ITV News politics correspondent Dan Hewitt

This year's scrapped GSCE and A-Level exams in England will be replaced with teacher assessments and not algorithms, the education secretary has confirmed.

Gavin Williamson said there would be "no algorithms whatsoever" involved in the system that is being set up to replace this year's exams, which have been cancelled due to the disruption to pupils' education caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The minister said "this year we're putting trust firmly in the hands of teachers", though he would not preempt an announcement due on Thursday on the new system that will replace GCSEs and A Levels.

Grading for students became a fiasco last summer after exams were cancelled amid school closures due to Covid-19.

Thousands of A-level students had their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm, before a dramatic U-turn which allowed them to use teachers' predictions.

This year, however, the regulator will not use an algorithm to standardise teachers' estimated grades if they appear more generous than they should be.

And school children in England are still likely to be allowed full summer holidays this year, despite the disruption to their education caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Education Secretary Williamson suggested summer holidays will not be shortened because schools have been provided millions in funding to put on classes during the six weeks pupils have outside the classroom.

He also ruled out lengthening school days to help children catch up on missed learning, pointing to a review of the education system that aims to drive results and attainment.

Asked by ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt whether the government would be lengthening school days, or shortening the holidays, Mr Williamson said: "On the summer holidays, what we have done in terms of a £200 million programme is we want schools to be putting on great activities, whether it is education-led or even wellbeing-led, so we'd be hoping that schools can be offering that, draw down that funding in order to be offering that to children.

"Yes, we'd hope that schools are offering time in schools for children and that's why we've put the funding there. "

He added: "You ask about lengthening the school day - it is not part of the plan."

  • Dan Hewitt highlights the various responses to the Department of Education's announcements

Earlier it was announced an extra £400 million of funding has been set aside – on top of the £300 million pledged in January – to help fund a catch up programme for pupils who have lost learning time following months of school closures.

As part of the recovery package, summer provision will be introduced for pupils who need it the most, such as incoming Year 7 pupils, whilst one-to-one and small group tutoring schemes will be expanded.

The programme includes a one-off £302 million “Recovery Premium” for primary and secondary schools to support disadvantaged pupils – which could include running additional clubs and activities in the summer, or opting for evidence-based approaches to help children from September.

Listen to the ITV News Politics Podcast:

A further £200 million will be available to secondary schools to deliver face-to-face summer schools.

Asked when he would have a "long-term plan to help children recover" after providing only "short-term cash today", Education Secretary Williamson said: "We know that schools are the very best place for all of our children.

"As part of this £700 million package that we are rolling out, building on the billion pounds that we announced last year, we are giving schools the tools they need in order to be able to deliver for all children.

"We've given schools the flexibility in order to be able to make sure it's properly targeted to children who need the most help.

"We're very much supporting all children in our whole school system."