Williamson re-sits exam decision

Williamson re-sits exam decision

An imminent U-turn by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson might well see exams re-instated this year.

In a letter to the chief regulator, Williamson said he would like to ‘explore the possibility of providing externally set tasks or papers’.

I said at the time of cancellation that it was a decision made too early and that everything must be done to allow students to sit GCSEs and A’ Levels.

Perhaps the government has realised the importance of exams and understands the harm it does to young people without them.

Any reverse of the decision will frustrate students and teachers but it will be for the best.

After last year’s debacle in which algorithms were used, Williamson said teacher assessments would be the sole method of creating grades this year.

But assessments are notoriously unreliable and give inflated grades.

This is not a criticism of teachers, but it is highly likely that their opinions about their own students will be biased.

There are always pressures not to downgrade students. Which school wants to declare that their children are doing worse than those in other schools?

With assessments, there is no proper moderation or national standards in place to assess the grades or challenge them.

Schools receive some guidance, but this is hardly sufficient.

Employers, colleges, and universities will really have no real idea of the abilities and potential of the candidates they are interviewing.

A Preprint study showed that school predicted grades are overestimated in around 45 percent of cases.

This forced the government to lift the 7,500 cap on trainee doctors in 2020.

There will now be around 10,000 doctors in training. This may help solve the GP problem in the long term, but is it fair? This kind of inflated intake cannot be sustained.

So it is correct that the government tries to reinstate exams that are set and marked externally.

Later in the year, once the vaccine has taken effect, it will be possible to relax some of the current strictures.

Schools will be back in operation and even if they are not there will be space within them to carry out socially distanced examinations.

This was possible in 2020 too and many other European countries did just that.

A slimmed-down examination is perfectly possible. The syllabus could be trimmed and in proportion to what has been studied with questions set around these topics.

This would be fair and match the examinations in the following year in difficulty if not in range.