Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has warned that “chaos and incompetence” in government has created extra stress for school and college pupils as they await exam results.
Tens of thousands of students in England will receive their A-level and GCSE results this month after exams were cancelled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic.
Students will be given grades determined by teachers, rather than exams, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught during the pandemic.
Failed to act early enough
Sir Keir said prime minister Boris Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson had failed to act early enough to ensure this summer’s results operations run smoothly.
The Department for Education said a “rigorous system to ensure grades are fair” has been put in place.
Sir Keir said: “I have a very vivid memory of the day I got my A-level results – of the pressure, nerves and worry that my entire path could be determined by what was on that sheet of paper.
“It frustrates me immensely that this week’s big moment in so many young people’s lives is being risked by the chaos and incompetence at the top of this government.”
Labour has set a series of tests for the government to meet, including a “next step guarantee” for pupils to move forward after their results.
The opposition called for the Government to work with universities, colleges and employers to ensure youngsters can move on after receiving their grades.
Labour also demanded a functional appeals system and support for teachers and education leaders.
Huge extra stress
Sir Keir said: “This abject refusal of Boris Johnson to get a grip has created huge extra stress for students and baked unfairness into the assessment process.
“Young people and our dedicated education staff have worked incredibly hard, but they have been let down time and time again by Boris Johnson’s failure to stand up for their futures.
“No young person should lose out because of Conservative chaos, which is why we are calling on the prime minister to fix this mess his education secretary has created and deliver on our three tests so all young people can move on to the next stage of their lives.”
Students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive their A-level and GCSE results in the same week in August.
A-level and AS-level results day is Tuesday, 10 August and GCSE results day is Thursday, 12 August.
Teachers in England have been required to consider a range of evidence, including mock exams, coursework, and in-class assessments using questions from exam boards, to make decisions on pupils’ grades.
Headteachers had to submit a personal declaration that they believed grades to be accurate.
Schools and colleges were asked to provide samples of student work to exam boards, as well as evidence used to determine the grades for the students selected, as part of quality assurance (QA) checks.
Last summer, the fiasco around grading led to thousands of A-level students having their results downgraded from school estimates by what Mr Johnson dubbed a “mutant algorithm”, before Ofqual announced a U-turn.
This year there will not be an algorithm used to moderate grades.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We recognise the unprecedented challenges pupils and students have faced over the last year and a half, and have been working with Ofqual, universities and other providers for months to ensure as many students as possible can progress.
“This includes putting in place a rigorous system to ensure grades are fair, and this week we have adjusted the cap on medical and dentistry places so that more students than ever will have the opportunity to study on these courses in 2021.
“A record number of students have applied to university this year and are taking the next steps in their lives towards securing exciting and rewarding careers – after an extraordinary and challenging period. Ucas, the admissions service, is predicting that over 80% of people will get into their first choice of university.
“Exams are the best form of assessment but in the absence of those this year there is no-one better placed to judge young people’s abilities than their teachers, who see them day in, day out.
“Teachers have assessed multiple pieces of work, in turn giving students multiple opportunities to show what they know and perform to their best.”