Sky News interview on Covid-19 related Exam 2020 results (13 August 2020)

Sky News interview on Covid-19 related Exam 2020 results (13 August 2020)

I was interviewed on Sky News about the exam results during the 2020 Pandemic.

Host: Moderating exams pupils haven’t actually sat. How do you do it in a way that both protects the credibility of the results and is of course fair to every young person. Well, I’m joined now by Ben Bloomfield who is currently waiting for his A-Level results; Dr Stephen Curran, who is a former teacher and has advised the government on the National Curriculum; and Rachel Hewitt, who is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute. A very good evening to you and thanks very much for being with us. Ben, perhaps we can turn to you first. You have a smile on your face. You don’t seem nervous about tomorrow. How are you feeling? … As you say, some inconsistencies really depending on the school and the part of the country. Well, let’s turn to you Dr Stephen Curran, Do you think there is a sense of panic in Government with this last-minute u-turn by the Education Secretary? Clearly, they’ve been watching closely what’s been going on in Scotland.

SC: Yes, I think they definitely have been watching closely what has been happening in Scotland. Really, it’s an impossible dilemma, because once you cancel examinations, although examinations are not entirely fair, you end up really with this kind of situation where the Government in Scotland, and our own Government, really is having to undermine their own Qualification Authorities to head off potential protests. Now, I am very sympathetic with Ben and well done to you Ben for doing as well as you did. Of course, there isn’t a lot really we can do, other than try to salvage this situation. But really, it goes back to a decision that was made in March. I really think it would have been possible to have held the exams had they delayed. But everyone was trying to react to the situation and now we’re left in this dilemma.

Host: But you actually think exams could have gone ahead. How could this have possibly happened?

SC: Well, I’ve been running tuition centres and we’ve actually had exams. We’ve had children in safely to sit them. Obviously, it was very difficult for the Government to look to the long-term and to see that the situation would be eased, but really I think with careful management it would be possible, for certainly the A-Level students to do those exams. I think GCSEs would have been far more difficult, because there were many more students. Certainly, with A-Level students, it would have been possible with careful management. We are now left in this situation where exams are largely being decided by teachers and we know from statistics that grades do tend to get inflated by teachers, although they do their very best to stop this. But, we can see from the statistics that grades are generally placed higher. Obviously mock exams are not moderated in any way, so there is, as Ben was saying, variance from different school to school as to how these are adopted … And, also, given the option of an exam, I don’t think many students will do that, given it’s so late in the day.

Host: Rachel Hewitt, how is all this going to play out in university admissions…Stephen, one thing that’s occurred to me, what would actually be wrong in giving students, right across the country throughout the UK, grades that their teachers thought they deserved? Yes, everyone will get a higher than perhaps the pupils last year, but everyone knows that this is the ‘Covid Generation’. Universities and employers will all know that they need to take that into account.

SC: We are in an unprecedented situation, and we are going to have to accept that. Probably we are going to be making the best of what we can with the situation. It isn’t really a good thing for teachers alone to decide what their students should receive. Schools have different policies. All teachers have to moderate their work with each other. In one sense exams are not fair, but they are a great leveller, because obviously when a child is sitting an exam in Eton or another school in the country – a secondary school in a much more deprived area, they still are sitting the same exam. At least that one thing is constant. The problem with this is that so many things are not constant. I think to a large extent our government in England has headed off a big problem that happened in Scotland. To a large extent, that is a political decision because the SQA have been undermined by their own government. Our situation, really to begin with, we wouldn’t undermine our judiciary. I know they are not the same thing but the government literally step in and make decisions about what children should receive is a really strange situation. I really do understand that there is not much else they could do.

Host: No, it is very difficult isn’t it? Ben, going on from what Stephen was saying… Thank you very much indeed.