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Pupils should be compensated for Covid-19 impact through ‘more generous’ grading

Photo by David Jones/PA Media

By Eleanor Busby

Students taking GCSE and A-level exams next year should be compensated for the “baleful impact” of the pandemic on their learning through more generous grade boundaries, Ofqual has suggested.

Dame Glenys Stacey, acting chief regulator of Ofqual, has said the watchdog is looking at what steps it can take to make next summer’s exams “less daunting” to pupils amid coronavirus disruption.

In a letter to the Education Secretary, Dame Glenys said there was “an opportunity to recognise, and to compensate for the baleful impact of the pandemic for all students qualifying in 2021 (and possibly beyond), by setting national performance standards more generously than in normal times.”

“In all years, a student’s prospects and their opportunities to learn are, of course, affected by individual circumstances, but in this exceptional period, almost all students have already had less opportunity to learn in the usual ways, because of the pandemic,” the chief regulator said.

In the letter to Gavin Williamson, Dame Glenys added: “Some will be much more affected than others, because of their home circumstances or because of the path of the pandemic.”

“It is important that we recognise that in every way possible, in a joined-up way across the system, without bending examinations out of shape.”

It comes after Schools Minister Nick Gibb suggested to MPs last month that grading for next year’s GCSE and A-level exams could address the “lost education” students have suffered amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Next year’s will go ahead in England, but the majority of A-level and GCSE exams will be pushed back by three weeks to give pupils more time to catch up on their learning following school closures.

The exams, which usually begin in May, will be delayed to June and July – apart from the English and maths GCSEs which will take place before the half-term.

The Department for Education has not yet announced contingency plans for 2021 exams, but the interim Ofqual chief regulator said it is working with exams boards to prepare for a full range of scenarios the sector may face.

In the letter to Mr Williamson, Dame Glenys said: “We expect to be in a position to provide advice as to then allow you to determine and confirm contingency arrangements with the sector in November.”


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