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Petition for fairer GCSE and A-level exams in 2021 surpasses 25,000 signatures in under 24 hours

MORE than 25,000 people have signed a petition calling for fairer GCSE and A-level exams next year in its first 24 hours.

The petition, launched by the National Education Union (NEU) on Wednesday night, is addressed to PM Boris Johnson and demands that urgent action be taken to “fix” the exams system.

It comes after the government mishandled this year’s grading processes for students, following the cancellation of all summer exams due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A last-minute government U-turn allowed A-level and GCSE students to accept predicted grades given by teachers, also known as centre-assessed grades (Cags), or sit exams in the autumn.

The move followed a huge backlash after the grades of A-level students, mainly at more deprived state schools with bigger class sizes, were massively downgraded through “statistical moderation.”

The decision was made on Wednesday night by exam board Pearson to delay the issue of Btec Level 1 and Level 2 results, a decision condemned by Labour as “utterly disgraceful’ and by the NEU as “incompetent.”

In launching its petition the union wrote that “parents, students and education professionals are as one in their belief this disaster must never happen again.

“Together, we are calling for swift action to ensure that students sitting those same exams in 2021 are treated fairly and that none are cruelly disadvantaged by an algorithm.”

NEU is demanding that the government reduce the content assessed in GCSE and A-level exams next summer in all subjects, to allow for variation in lost learning time due to the closure of schools this year. 

The union is also calling on the government to work with education professionals to develop “a robust national system of moderated centre assessed grades in case there is further disruption to exams next summer due to Covid-19.”

NEU’s third demand is for an independent review to be commissioned into assessment methods used to award GCSE and A-level qualifications in England, along the lines announced by the Scottish government.   

NEU joint general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “This government has no-one but itself to blame. The weaknesses in a system of its own creation have been left horribly exposed.

“What is needed is nothing short of an independent review into what went wrong, and a determination to ensure it never happens again.

“That would be a big step towards regaining the trust of parents and the profession.”

The petition can be signed at bit.ly/3gcKn3m.

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