Putting trust in teachers
Mr Wiliamson told MPs on Wednesday (6 Jan) that the government will put its “trust in teachers, rather than algorithms” to determine pupils’ grades this year.
The grading of GCSE and A Level students in England became a fiasco last summer, when end of year exams were cancelled amid school closures, leading to thousands of A Level students having their results downgraded from school estimates.
Ofqual later announced a U-turn, allowing pupils’ to use teachers’ predicted grades instead.
The Education Secretary acknowledged that exams are the “fairest way” of assessing what a student knows, but said that the impact of the pandemic has meant it will not be possible to hold examinations in the summer as a result of the disruption.
Speaking to MPs, Mr Williamson said: “I will not apologise for being enthusiastic to ensure that we had been able to be in a position to roll out exams - but we do recognise where we are as a result of this pandemic, we have to take a different course and that is why we’re taking the route we are.”
He added that colleges, schools and other educational providers will be given flexibility to ensure that pupils on technical and vocational qualifications are given the support they need.
Many pupils will need to complete practical assessments on their courses in order to take up work and job opportunities, such as those doing electrician or gas courses. Mr Williamson said the government wants to “ensure that the door is kept open for them.”
SAT examinations will also not be going ahead this year across England, the Education Secretary has confirmed.
He said: “I can absolutely confirm that we won’t be proceeding with SATs this year.
“We do recognise that this will be an additional burden on schools and it’s very important that we’re very much focused on welcoming students back into the classroom at the very earliest opportunity.”
The decision to scrap summer exams this year comes after the UK Government announced that schools and colleges in England will be closed until at least mid-February, due to a third national lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was “no choice” but to close schools and issue a stay at home order, due to the rapid spread of the new Covid-19 variant, which is more infectious than others.
Mr Williamson said that schools will not be closed “for a moment longer than they need to be” and assured the public that the Government is doing everything possible to ensure schools are the “first thing to be opened in every instance.”