Exams and Accountability 2021

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:34 am on 3rd December 2020.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee 10:34 am, 3rd December 2020

It is right that we have exams in some form next year, because that at least gives pupils much-needed structure. I thank the Secretary of State, because there is no easy or perfect option, but I have two questions that I would like to ask him. First, are we possibly baking grade inflation into the system, as we saw in 2020? Could we not ensure that grade boundaries are in line with 2019 results, or at least between 2019 and 2020 results, so that we can revert to the standards of 2019, while no one loses out, and start transitioning back to normality? From a social justice perspective, does inflating all the grades just move the goalposts, in that the difference between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers remains the same?

Secondly, we know from the DFE’s own data that 798,000 pupils in state-funded schools were not in school for covid-19-related reasons on Thursday 26 November. Is there a way that we could track every single child to assess the learning that he or she is getting from the school? Will my right hon. Friend give Ofsted a much stronger role to ensure that children are learning, and will he use the £143 million allocated to the catch-up programme to ensure that every pupil is prepared for this year’s exams, rather than rolling over that funding into next year?