Covid-19: Impact on Schools and Exams — [James Gray in the Chair.]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 7:27 pm on 7th December 2020.

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Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North 7:27 pm, 7th December 2020

I want to place on the record my thanks to all right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House who have taken part in this very important debate.

Some really strong points were made about fairness in the United Kingdom by the hon. Members for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon). I completely concur with their comments. I am concerned about the fact that we have different systems in different parts of our United Kingdom. This would have been a good opportunity for all regions of the United Kingdom to come together as one to agree a system to ensure fairness.

I also have concerns—this was raised by Rachael Maskell—about the deferment of students from 2020 going into this year along with the students who will apply for university at the end of their summer exams in 2021, and whether universities will be able to handle that and whether students will miss out on their first choices.

I should mention my hon. Friend Mark Pawsey. I was a teacher at Ashlawn School, which he named, so I suppose I should put that on the record in the interests of fairness. I brought him to the school to speak to students on numerous occasions.

I want to go back to the hon. Member for York Central, because she made excellent points about how it would be far better for the £350 million for tutoring to go to local areas to make local decisions to hire local tutors, or for local university or student tutors or ex-teachers like me to go out there and actually do the work. Before I get the Twitterati trolling me, I place on the record that I would not expect to be paid if I did volunteer.

I thank all teachers, supply staff and exam officers from across Stoke-on-Trent North and the UK. I look forward to sparring with the shadow Minister, Wes Streeting, on education. He referred to the Government’s handling of exams last summer, but I remind him that Labour-run Wales and the Scottish National party, which runs Scotland, also had to realise that their algorithms had gone wrong. He talked about the issues with advance notice. There are 1,000 exams that need to be written, so there is obviously an issue because exam boards need time to work with Ofqual to make sure the topics are fair and balanced.

When it comes to lions led by donkeys—I do enjoy that old line from when I taught history—I thought at one moment that we were talking about the NEU leading the Leader of the Opposition with regard to his constant non-committal in June over whether schools should be open or not. Perhaps I misheard or misunderstood.

I thank all Members for taking part in this debate.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered e-petitions 326066, 550846, 316404 and 549015, relating to the impact of Covid-19 on schools and exams.

Sitting adjourned.