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End-of-Year Assessments 2021

Volume 693: debated on Monday 26 April 2021

What progress he has made on ensuring that there is an effective end-of-year assessment process for school students in 2021. (914727)

In the absence of statutory assessments, primary schools continue to assess children’s attainment and support the transition to secondary education. Guidance has been published to support secondary schools to determine grades for GCSE, A-levels and AS-levels, as well as vocational and technical qualifications. Students can be assured that grades will be as fair and consistent as possible and that they will be able to move on to the next stage of their education and careers.

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. I met students from years 11 and 10 and the staff from South Charnwood High School near Markfield. They are very concerned about the assessments not only for this year, but for next year as well. What work is going on to look at future assessments to make sure that what happens is fair not only this year, but next year and subsequently, because those pupils are anxious?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. We remain clear that exams are the fairest method of assessment. We know that students at South Charnwood High School and elsewhere will be working hard to prepare for exams in 2022. We continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic, and we will announce our plans to ensure that pupils in years 10 and 12 can be awarded grades safely and fairly in 2022.

Like so many other aspects of the Government’s coronavirus response, the Department for Education’s handling of exams has been a total disaster. Schools are currently grappling with a whole series of challenges that could have been easily avoided if only the Department had planned ahead. Can we finally have the triumph of hope over experience, and the Government learn their lessons from last year’s disaster and the unfolding disaster this year and publish plans for next year so that those exams are not a disaster, too?

Given the disruption to children’s education over the past year, it would not be fair for exams to go ahead as normal. On 15 January, 11 days after the decision was taken to cancel exams, we consulted Ofqual on the details of alternative arrangements to ensure that students can be awarded a grade and can move on to the next stage of their lives, despite the fact that we have had to cancel exams. That consultation received more than 100,000 responses. This year’s students taking their GCSEs and A-levels and some vocational and technical qualifications will receive grades determined by their teachers based on a range of evidence, including in-class tests, course work and optional exam board-provided sets of questions. Robust internal and external quality assurance processes are in place to ensure fairness and consistency. We will monitor the position regarding 2022 and we will make a statement then.

Order. I say gently to the Minister that that must have been the longest answer. I am sure that he would like to get some other colleagues in.