Next year's A-levels and GCSEs 'only have 50% chance of going ahead'

Students only have a ‘50/50’ chance of sitting their GCSE and A-level exams next year, a senior Tory has warned.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon has urged exams regulator Ofqual to be set an October deadline to decide whether to scrap exams in 2021 and again award grades on teachers’ assessments.

The exams watchdog has been heavily criticised over its handling of the process for awarding grades following the cancellation of exams in England.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has also been under intense pressure after the U-turn, which saw a controversial algorithm abandoned in favour of relying on teachers’ assessments of the grades pupils should receive.

‘It is 50:50 that exams go ahead next summer,’ Mr Halfon told The Sunday Times.

‘Schools, the Department for Education and Ofsted need to work out… how much disruption there will be to pupils’ learning in the coming year.

‘Serious analysis needs to be done and then they need to make an announcement about exams within the next few weeks.’

Mr Halfon, who is chairman of the Education Select Committee, said the decision on next summer’s exams should be taken quickly to allow for teacher assessments to start if necessary, according to the newspaper.

He warned that pupils may have missed too much schooling to catch up, while a rise in Covid-19 cases could force many students back into online learning.

Ofqual chairman Roger Taylor is to face questions from MPs as pupils return to classrooms this week, when he appears before the committee on Wednesday.

Mr Williamson is then set to be grilled about the A-level and GCSE results fiasco on September 16.

An Ofqual spokeswoman said: ‘There are no plans to cancel either GCSEs or A-levels in 2021. There are also currently no plans to curtail programmes of study.

‘But we keep all plans constantly under review because the progress of the pandemic is uncertain.’

The controversial algorithm had appeared to boost private schools’ performance and led to many other students having their results downgraded earlier this month.

Sally Collier resigned from her role as head of Ofqual last week, while the Department for Education announced that permanent secretary Jonathan Slater would be standing down a day later.

Four education unions have written to Mr Williamson demanding an urgent inquiry into the exams fiasco to ‘understand what went wrong’.

The letter was signed by the general secretaries of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the National Education Union (NEU) and teachers’ union NASUWT.

‘This year’s process for awarding grades in A-levels, GCSEs and other qualifications has left many young people, parents and teachers with a sense of deep injustice,’ they wrote.

‘Parents and taxpayers will quite rightly be asking what went wrong and why.

‘We are asking you to commit to an urgent and independent inquiry into what happened this year in order to understand what went wrong and to learn lessons for the future.’

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