Why does Gavin Williamson continue to let down our young people ? - Catherine Scott

So Education Secretary Gavin Williamson cancels summer exams and looks to replace them with... summer exams.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson Picture: PA

A rapid two-week consultation of those affected – from teachers and universities to students and parents – is going on at the moment with the results known by the end of February. The end of February – that gives teachers and already stressed-out students a matter of weeks to get to grips with whatever new rules come into place. Surely this should all have been done over the summer as a contingency for a second wave of Covid-19 this winter which was inevitable without a full vaccine rollout? You do need to ask how is Williamson still in a job as last summer’s GCSE and A-level debacle is set to be repeated this year, with the only casualties being the teenagers and teachers.

The main thrust of the consultation is that teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) will replace GCSEs and A-levels. But the TAGs will have to be evidence-based and only reflect what the students are achieving at the moment – not what the teachers predict they could have got if Covid-19 hadn’t happened.

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That seems at odds to what happened last year when students, particularly A-level students, were awarded their predicted grades. Predicted grades are what have been sent to Ucas and what many students’ offers have been based on.

While I can see the need for some sort of parity across the country, it is hard to see how this is possible when so many GCSE and A-level students have had different experiences during the last year. Some have seen very little disruption with access to live lessons from the start, others have missed months of face-to-face teaching as well as technology problems.

I know some students felt a bit cheated when Boris Johnson announced the exams could not go ahead this summer as planned. And while the Government maintains exams are the best way of testing children’s ability, how can that be the case when there is such a disparity across the country when it comes to the disruption children have faced?

Both my children should be sitting exams this summer. They have had the advantage of access to technology and a supportive family but even so they are struggling. Not with the prospect of sitting exams, if that’s what’s decided, they will do their best, but with the constant U-turns. I am sure teachers are feeling the same, especially as apparently they will have to mark any externally set exams. So once again Gavin Williamson is letting down our young people. Yes, exams are important but teenagers’ mental health is more important.