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Home Education: Grades/Covid-19

Volume 679: debated on Monday 7 September 2020

What steps his Department is taking to allocate grades to home-educated students who were unable to take public examinations as a result of the covid-19 outbreak. (905492)

Exams will be available in all GCSE, AS and A-level subjects in the autumn. Schools and colleges that accepted entries from private candidates, including home-educated students, in the summer should enter those who wish to sit an exam, and there should be no financial barriers to doing so.

I thank the Minister for his reply, but I want to raise with him the issue of my constituent Ella Hampson, a year 10 home-educated student. She was due to take several GCSEs a year early, but the decision to withdraw private candidates meant that, unlike her friends and her peers, she was not given estimated grades on GCSE day. That caused a delay, and she has not been able to move on to college in the way that she had hoped. In any event, she has been told by her exam centre that she needs to be 16 on 31 August, so is not eligible for the autumn examinations as she is only 15. What advice can the Minister give Ella about how to get the grades to recognise the work she has done this year?

Private candidates who were entered for the summer series or where the school intended to enter them for the summer are eligible to enter the autumn series. The candidate’s age is actually not relevant. We expect the school or college that enters students for the summer series to enter them for the autumn.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Many thousands of private candidates, including mature students and those undertaking resits, have been left without a grade under this year’s exam arrangements and unable to progress to the next stage of their education or employment. Will the Minister ensure that UCAS predicted grades are confirmed for all external candidates, provide them—just to confirm—with the option to sit autumn exams free of charge, ensure that the highest grade of the UCAS result and autumn resit will be awarded, and urge universities to honour their offers for a September 2021 start date? Will he allow those external candidates who have received a centre-assessed grade to appeal their results?

My right hon. Friend raises some important points. Of course, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Universities said, universities are being flexible on entry to universities this year. Schools, colleges and further education colleges are able to provide additional support to students sitting their exams in the autumn if they have the capacity to do so. Schools can also now use their pupil premium funding to support these pupils. The autumn exams are an important backstop to the summer grade process, and we are helping schools to offer them to students by assisting with additional space and invigilators, where required.