Schools in the south react to changes to exam grades for GCSE and A-level students

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Christine Alsford

Schools and colleges across the South East have welcomed the news that students taking GCSE and A-level exams next year will be awarded more generous grades to compensate for disruption during the Coronavirus pandemic, but it's already leading to questions about how the results will be valued.

It comes after the Education Secretary Mr Williamson announced a host of measures to help compensate for the disruption - denying the system leaves inequalities still between different parts of the country.

Students taking GCSE and A-level exams next year will be awarded more generous grades, receive advance notice of some topics ahead of tests, and exam aids when sitting papers.

But despite different areas experiencing different levels of disruption due to Covid infection - with some schools closing more regularly than others - Mr Williamson said "it doesn't matter" that pupils have missed teaching.

Pupils from Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone welcome the changes but say they're still at a disadvantage.

Emily Hurcombe says: "I think it's better that we've made some changes because if we just kept it as normal that would be unfair. But I think it's still not going to be fair because we have missed a lot of teaching."

While Amelie Coy says: "There's no substitute for teaching in school and even though our school was quite good at teaching from home, nothing will be the same, so I think the changes that have been made are very useful and will benefit the students."

In Hampshire, the headteacher at Oaklands Catholic School in Waterlooville has welcomed the news, following months of uncertainty.

Matthew Quinn says: "Well, I'm very pleased that the government has finally announced something. We've had 8 or 9 months of uncertainty and this now brings some certainty to the situation. Now whilst I might not agree with everything the government has announced at this point in time, it now puts a flag in the ground and allows us to move forward and prepare youngsters for exams in the summer."

There are those that believe it risks completely undermining next summer's exams and qualifications, rendering them meaningless. 

That is the view of Chris McGovern from the Campaign for Real Education, based in East Sussex. 

He says: "It's dishonest. I spent 35 years teaching telling children to be honest and now we have the Secretary of State telling us that a fake exam is going to be a real exam and I feel very sorry for young people because the GCSEs and A-levels are going to be devalued currency - they are not going to be taken seriously, they are going to be dumbed down."

Mr Williamson said "by giving schools advance notice of the topic areas it means that they are able to use the final few months of the academic year [...] to focus that learning on those topic areas".

It is understood that grading changes simply based on the region you live in have been ruled out.