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Exam grades could be based on teacher assessment and mocks, say UK school leaders

By Alison Kershaw, PA

Teenagers affected by the decision to cancel this summer's GCSE and A-level exams could be awarded grades based on teacher assessment and the results of their mocks, it has been suggested.

School leaders said it is thought these proposed grades could be submitted to exam boards to check to ensure "consistency and fairness".

It was announced on Wednesday that the exams in England and Wales will be cancelled this year, although the Prime Minister has said there are plans for students to receive qualifications.

It was also announced that English schools, along with nurseries, colleges and childminders, will shut on Friday until further notice.

Teachers, pupils and their families are now waiting to hear how students will receive the qualifications they have been working towards for the last two years.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said the Government will work with schools, colleges and exams regulator Ofqual "to ensure children get the qualifications they need".

In an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Thursday, Mr Williamson said guidance will be issued on Friday about how pupils unable to sit their exams due to school closures will get their grades.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told the PA news agency: "We are waiting for details from Ofqual about how GCSEs and A-levels will be assessed and grades awarded in lieu of exams.

"However, we expect that it will be based on teacher assessment supported by evidence of internal assessment that has already taken place such as mock exams, and that this will be submitted to the exam boards which will then check submissions to ensure consistency and fairness and award grades accordingly.

"The vast majority of teachers endeavour to give accurate assessments, but the decision to suspend school and college performance tables this year will remove any incentive to do otherwise.

"There will clearly need to be an appeal procedure if candidates feel they have been disadvantaged, and inevitably a great many questions remain about how all of this will work.

"We can assure the public that everything possible will be done to support students at this worrying time."

Mr Williamson told Today: "We will be doing everything we can do to make sure they get their results in August as they will be hoping to, but we can't predict as to how they are going to unfold.

"It is absolutely vital for me for those children who have put so much work into all their learning over these years working up to their GCSEs and A-levels to get their results, but also making sure that we have a proper and fair system if they dispute that, if they are not content with it, there is some mechanism for them to have redress."

Mr Williamson has also said the Government is prepared to waive the newly-qualified teacher status to ensure new teachers currently in training can enter the classroom in September.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Williamson said: "We will be prepared to waive that, we will be working with teacher training establishments in order to do this."

In Scotland and Wales, all schools will close by Friday. A decision on whether exams will take place in Scotland has not yet been taken.

Schools in Northern Ireland will also shut and it is expected pupils will not sit their exams.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of vice-chancellors' group Universities UK, told the PA news agency that if exam grades cannot be awarded as usual this summer, then one option may be to give university places based on an assessment of things such as an applicant's predicted grades and personal statement.

"I think that's doable," he said. "It is not preferable as it is very tricky."

He added: "We are going to have to write new rules. This is completely unprecedented. It is possible to find a way to issue students places."

If a way is found to award grades to students this summer, then the university admissions system may be able to go ahead as usual.

Mr Jarvis said that the key point is that "students will be able to start their university courses in the new academic year, as long as it is safe to do so".

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