Harrogate headteachers back calls for major re-think of 2021 exams to help pupils missing months of learning

Harrogate headteachers have backed calls for a major re-think of next year's exams following the results meltdown which sent students scrambling for spots at colleges and universities.

Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 5:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th August 2020, 5:12 pm

The school leaders have warned A-level and GCSE assessments must take into account the fact that candidates will have missed months of schooling, and exams regulators are already said to be considering delays and a continuation of teacher assessment.

However, there are still fears that even with these measures students taking their exams next summer could face more disruption.

Carl Sugden, headteacher of King James’s School in Knaresborough, said: "A consultation has been undertaken showing adaptations for each subject, such as dropping coursework in geography or reducing the number of exam papers in history.

Pupils in Harrogate got record results last week after a last minute switch from calculated grades to school assessments.

"These measures will help us prepare students for the exams next year but nothing can make up for months of missed teaching.

"The important thing is not to panic, we can teach these courses and we can catch up."

It comes after pupils last week got record results in a last minute switch from calculated grades to school assessments.

A faulty algorithm had deliberately marked young people down, but in ways that were described as “unfair and inexplicable” by the executive headteacher of Harrogate Grammar School.

Richard Sheriff, who is also chief executive of Red Kite Learning Trust which has 13 schools in Yorkshire, has said almost all students have now been able to secure their places at college and university.

"It's a real pity that so much hurt and upset has been caused for us to get here, but the vast majority of students have now secured their first - if not second - choices," he said.

"One of the really important things here is that the government learns from what has happened and they absolutely have to take into account the fact students will have missed months of schooling.

"I would encourage our decision makers to make exams as fair as possible for these upcoming years groups and I know they're looking at a number of options to make that happen."

It has been claimed that the plans under consideration for next year's exams include pushing assessments from May to as late as July and continuing this summer’s emergency marking system.

The exams regulator Ofqual is expected to provide further information on these possible measures in the coming weeks.

However, teachers’ unions have warned the impact of Covid-19 will continue well into the next academic year and that all options for awarding exams should be considered.

Meanwhile, Knaresborough's Mr Sugden has said he would welcome an independent review into what went wrong with this year's results, but added nothing can be done to "undo the chaos of the last two weeks".

He said: "At A-level there has been considerable anxiety and stress for some students who had offers withdrawn and then reinstated. In the meantime many had gone through clearing and accepted other offers.

"At GCSE it has been a bit more straightforward as there has not been the U turn on centre assessed grades but there are, as in all years, some students who will be disappointed with their grades.

"What was surprising to me is that no-one in government seemed to see that coming and have a sensible conversation, before results day, about how to avoid the meltdown."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter