Fears exam boards will slash GCSE and A Level grades

Fears exam boards will slash GCSE and A Level grades after teachers mark them over-generously – as ministers reveal £1bn package to help pupils recover from coronavirus study lag

  • Preliminary grades from 1,900 school suggests teachers have marked leniently 
  • Headteachers will be encouraged to hire private tutors for after-school classes
  • Schools will assess all pupils and help those who have fallen furthest behind
  • Ministers accept it could take a year or more for children to catch up on lost learning 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Exam results could be slashed amid forecasts suggesting teachers have marked pupils affected by the coronavirus pandemic too generously this year, while other pupils to be impacted by the virus will benefit from a £1billion support package.

As some pupils face longer school days and new social distancing measures, data published by FFT Datalab suggests exams regulator Ofqual will have to bring down the results of Year 11 and Year 13 pupils this year.

After compiling preliminary results from 1,900 schools across the country, the datalab said: ‘The proposed grades submitted to the exam boards will still have been above those awarded last year.

‘Consequently, it seems likely that Ofqual and the exam boards will have to apply statistical moderation to the grades submitted by schools, bringing them down on average.’

Headteachers will be encouraged to hire private tutors to run intensive after-school classes. Pictured: Year 10 pupils have their temperature checked as they arrive at school

Qualifications and exams regulator OfQual has been tasked with assessing the grades teachers have given pupils, based off their own attainment in class and previous work, after the coronavirus pandemic cancelled end of year exams for the class of 2020.

According to FFT Datalab, the average mark teachers put forward for 2020 was higher than the grade average for 2019 in every subject it looked at – it suggested Ofqual could cut grades by a third, The i reported.

One anonymous exam industry source told The i: ‘It was exactly what I would have expected to see.’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the paper: ‘It is understandable if a proportion of grades awarded by schools and colleges are higher than last year’s results. They are not marking exams, they are making their best assessment.’ 

It comes as ministers revealed a £1billion for schools to fund catch-up classes for children who have lost out due to the lockdown.

Headteachers will be encouraged to hire private tutors to run intensive after-school classes to help millions of pupils who have lost more than a term of their education since schools were ordered to close in mid-March.

Schools will be given cash to assess all pupils and identify and help those who have fallen furthest behind.

As the Mail revealed yesterday, children could be asked to work a longer school day. And specialist help will be available for those who have difficulties adjusting to the return to school after months at home.

Heads will be encouraged to run summer camps on their premises, although they will not be asked to provide formal lessons.

But ministers accept that it could take a year or more for children to catch up on their lost learning, meaning that much of the catch-up will have to take place in term time.

The plans will be unveiled by Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson later today.

The Prime Minister, who is expected to visit a reopened school to see the challenges first hand, last night stopped short of guaranteeing that all children will be back at school full-time by September. He said: ‘I am determined to do everything I can to get all children back in school from September, and we will bring forward plans on how this will happen as soon as possible.’

The money will be available to all state primary and secondary schools. Pictured: A year 7 pupil in Plymouth, Devon, has a temperature reading

The £1billion fund includes £350million for a ‘national tutoring programme’ aimed at helping the most disadvantaged children and £650million for measures to help all pupils deemed to have lost out.

The Education Endowment Foundation will provide guidance to heads on a ‘toolkit’ of measures which will qualify for funding. The organisation’s chief executive Becky Francis last night said that tutoring was ‘the catch-up approach supported by the strongest evidence’.

The money will be available to all state primary and secondary schools, but not nurseries or further education colleges.

While heads will be encouraged to hire private tutors, they will not be able to hire regular teachers or pay overtime to existing staff.

A study by UCL’s Institute of Education this week found that two million children have done less than an hour a day of schoolwork during lockdown. Only 17 per cent have done more than fours a day.

Paul Whiteman, of the National Association of Head Teachers, last night welcomed the scale of the funding and the decision to give heads flexibility over how it is spent. ‘This is a considerable sum of money which will empower schools to provide the support that pupils will need as they return to school,’ he said. 

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