Students: Assessments

Department for Education written question – answered on 2nd April 2020.

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Photo of Wes Streeting Wes Streeting Labour, Ilford North

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to ensure that students in (a) schools, (b) colleges and (c) universities are able to sit exams this summer.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

Holding answer received on 23 March 2020

As my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, announced to the House on 18 March, the Government has taken the difficult decision to cancel all examinations due to take place in schools and colleges in England this summer, as part of the fight to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Department’s priority is to ensure that students can move on as planned to the next stage of their lives, including starting university, college or sixth form courses or apprenticeships, in the autumn. For GCSE, AS and A-level students, we will ensure they are awarded a grade which reflects their work. Our intention is that a calculated grade will be awarded this summer based on the best available evidence, including any non-examination assessment that students have already completed. The qualifications regulator Ofqual is working urgently with examination boards to set out proposals for how this process will work and more information will be provided as soon as possible.

The Department recognises that some students may nevertheless feel disappointed that they have not been able to sit their examinations. If they do not believe the correct process has been followed in their case, they will be able to appeal on that basis. In addition, if they do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an examination, as soon as is reasonably possible after the beginning of the new academic year. Students will also have the option to sit their examinations in summer 2021.

There is a very wide range of different vocational and technical qualifications, as well as other academic qualifications, for which students were expecting to sit examinations this summer. These are offered by a large number of awarding organisations and have differing assessment approaches. In many cases, students will already have completed modules or non-examination assessment which could provide evidence to award a grade. The Department is encouraging these organisations to show the maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged. Ofqual is working urgently with the sector to explore options and will provide more details shortly.

Universities are autonomous institutions with full control over their own assessment processes. The Department and the regulator in England, the Office for Students, are working with registered universities and other higher education institutions to help support them with their decisions, and to find the best way forward for the benefit of all students affected. Universities will contact affected students directly.

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