Creativity is required to reduce exam problems - 08/20

The pandemic has resulted in huge uncertainties in large parts of our national life but we have learned to be creative to deal with previously unknown challenges. This has happened extensively in our economy with the government working quickly and creatively in order to keep businesses afloat and jobs intact. 

The problem we face with education is also unprecedented and needs a similarly innovative approach. We need to give young people who are currently receiving A-level and GCSE results all the support we can in what is an even more stressful time than usual because of the Covid 19 emergency. 

It is entirely understandable to worry about grade inflation but we cannot have an answer that is worse than the problem itself which is why I’m so concerned about the change in the advice from OFQAL in recent days. This has added unnecessary anxiety and confusion. In the absence of exams it is impossible to have a completely objective system to determine educational outcomes. It is clear that the current attempt to use algorithms to solve the problem is itself hugely problematic. 

It may well be that accepting the potential for grade inflation is one of the necessary consequences of a year that has been unusual in almost every respect. A soundly based appeal system should help deal with the unavoidable variations that will occur in such a system.  

In the post Covid period we can return to a normal system of assessments via the exam system but we must minimise any disruption to young people in North Somerset and across the country in the interim. 

I have therefore written to the Secretary of State for education in these terms today.