• Friday, May 20, 2022

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Government faces fresh flak as BTec results are pulled over concerns of ‘unfairness’

Students take part in a protest over the government’s handling of exam results, outside the Department for Education in London on August 20, 2020. (REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

By: Eastern Eye Staff

THE UK government faced fresh criticism on Thursday (20) over its handling of grading for school exams after results for hundreds of thousands of students were pulled.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has been accused of overseeing a fiasco over how grades have been awarded to teenagers who were unable to take their exams because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Exam board Pearson announced late on Wednesday that it would recalculate BTec grades, just hours before students were due to receive their results.

Its decision came days after the government bowed to pressure from angry pupils, teachers and lawmakers and ditched an algorithm that had downgraded A-level results for almost 40 per cent of school leavers last week, with those in disadvantaged areas more adversely affected.

Students were told on Monday they would now be awarded the grade that their teachers had predicted for them based on past performance, and that process is also being adopted for younger pupils receiving their GCSE results on Thursday.

Pearson said that change meant it was now having to change its BTec grades.

“BTec qualification results have been been generally consistent with teacher and learner expectations, but we have become concerned about unfairness in relation to what are now significantly higher outcomes for GCSE and A-levels,” it noted in a statement.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, wondered why Pearson took so long to figure out the impact of grade changes.

“It really does need to give an explanation of why this has happened,” he told BBC. “We feel desperately sorry for the students affected in a year when they have already undergone far too much disruption.”

Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, feared Pearson’s “late notification” could lead to “very significant challenges for schools, trusts and colleges”.

“It simply is unacceptable that some of the most disadvantaged students will not receive their grades tomorrow and that nothing has been done to correct this over the past few days,” she said.

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the “timing is worrying”, as “thousands of students were due to get their results in the morning and others have already got results which we know will not go down, but might improve”.

He added that it was “vital for students that this is sorted in days rather than weeks”.

The government, meanwhile, stood accused of ignoring warnings that the grading system would lead to unfair results, and the Williamson was lampooned by the media for the handling of the issue.

“Every step of this way there are problems you have to encounter and deal with, and we are dealing with them swiftly,” schools minister Nick Gibb told the BBC. “We’re working, as I said, night and day to get these issues right.”

He echoed Williamson’s apology for the uncertainty and confusion caused.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said: “Gavin Williamson was warned again and again about the problems with the grading algorithm, and each time, he did nothing.

“This endless pattern of incompetence is no way to run a country.”

Eastern Eye

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