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Labour calls on government to postpone next year's GCSE and A-level exams

LABOUR called on the government today to postpone next year’s GCSE and A-level exams to give pupils a chance to catch up with classwork missed during the pandemic.

Ahead of children returning to schools in England this week, shadow education secretary Kate Green warned that pupils entering years 11 and 13 have lost up to six months of teaching time and will face “a mountain to climb” in 2021 unless the government steps in. 

The party is calling for exams next May to be pushed back until June or July to allow for extra teaching time. 

The call comes after the Department for Education made a last-minute U-turn on A-level and GCSE results last month following downgrades in assessments imposed by an algorithm introduced by Ofqual, the exam regulator.

After a huge backlash from students, teachers, parents and unions, results reverted to unmoderated teachers’ predictions.

Ms Green said: “Ministers had warning after warning about problems with this year’s exam results but allowed it to descend into a fiasco. 

“This is too important for Boris Johnson to leave until the last minute.

“Pupils heading back to school need clarity and certainty about the year ahead.”

Labour said that, despite consulting on the issue, Ofqual has so far taken no position on whether or not exams should be delayed next year.

The party is also calling on the government to urgently review existing support arrangements for post-16 students. 

The government’s list of schools eligible for a catch-up premium does not include the post-16 provision, meaning pupils entering year 13 will not be eligible. 

Teaching unions have previously said that the government has its “head in the sand” on 2021 assessments, with many advising that there should be delays to exams.

National Education Union (NEU) joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said today that proposals to delay exams need to “be considered, alongside others” for situations such as a second spike of the coronavirus or local lockdowns.  

She said: “Alternative systems of assessment must be put in place to ensure that there is no repeat of the last-minute changes to the awarding process which created such chaos this year.

“The NEU has written to [Education Secretary] Gavin Williamson, asking him to slim down the syllabus content of GCSE and A-levels and put a system of robust teacher moderation in place.  

“After months of disrupted schooling, it is imperative that students are assessed on what they have been taught.”

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