Labour tells Gavin Williamson to set out plans for next year’s exams by September to avoid another fiasco

The government must set out its plans for next year’s exams by September to avoid a repeat of this year’s and last year’s fiascos, Labour says.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said “poor planning and preparation” over the past two years must not be repeated.

The party has released an analysis suggesting that the average Year 10 pupil has missed nearly one in four days of face-to-face GCSE or Btec teaching this school year amid the pandemic.

Last month education secretary Gavin Williamson said pupils would sit exams but stated that there would have to be “adjustments” in place to ensure fairness to pupils. But he did not go into detail about what this might involve.

In a speech on Tuesday afternoon, Ms Green will say 1 September this year – around two months away – should be the deadline for the government to outline what the exams will look like in the coming terms.

“The Conservatives’ poor planning and preparation has created a second year of exam chaos,” she is expected to say.

“Uncertainty just piles pressure on pupils and teachers, so the longer ministers dither and delay, the harder it will be to set a level playing field and ensure every pupil gets fair grades.

“Ministers need to learn from their mistakes and set out a plan by the time pupils return to school in September.”

Last week exams regulator Ofqual adjusted some fieldwork requirements for GCSE students in the light of the pandemic, removing compulsory aspects of geography, geology and environmental studies because of social distancing.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “These young people have suffered huge educational disruption to widely differing extents and adjustments will be needed to GCSEs, A-levels and other qualifications in 2022.

“The most obvious adjustment is to provide advance notice of topic areas in exams so that learning can be focused accordingly and students don’t end up having to answer questions on something that they haven’t covered in sufficient depth.

“But schools and colleges obviously need to know when and what advance notice might be given so that they can plan accordingly, and after 15 months of disruption students deserve to know what to expect.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We intend exams to go ahead in 2022, as well as vocational and technical qualifications.

“We are currently considering what more we can do to ensure fairness and the right level of support for pupils, and we will provide further details shortly.

“We are committed to an ambitious, long-term education recovery plan, which is backed by an investment to date of over £3bn and a significant expansion of our tutoring programme, to support children and young people to make up for disruption to their education.”

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