COVID-19: Changes to exams in 2022 and beyond likely because of pandemic, Gavin Williamson tells MPs | Politics News

Changes could be made to exams in 2022 and thereafter to take into account the disruption faced by pupils because of the coronavirus pandemic, the education secretary has suggested.

Gavin Williamson said he wants to see students sitting GCSE and A-level exams next year, but there may be the need for “adjustments and mitigations” to ensure fairness for those currently in Year 10 and 12.

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He told the Education Select Committee there was unlikely to be an immediate return to pre-coronavirus exams.

Mr Williamson said he would “far prefer to see children sitting exams” in 2022, but told MPs: “We very much recognise that we can’t predict what we are going to be facing over the coming years.”

He added: “We’re considering what we need to do to ensure that there’s fairness and there’s the right level of support for pupils.”

Asked if he thought changes would be needed next year and possibly into the future, Mr Williamson told the committee: “I very much expect there to be, sort of, adjustments and mitigations to be put in place because I think that those youngsters who currently are in year 10 and year 12 will have obviously suffered disruption as a result of the pandemic.

“So I think that you don’t have a situation of immediately switching back to the absolute sort of same state of situation as it was back in 2019.”

Summer exams have been cancelled for a second year in a row because of the pandemic, with teachers this year having to submit decisions on their pupils’ grades.

They have been able to draw on a range of evidence in their determinations, including mock exams, coursework, and in-class assessments using questions by exam boards.

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Mr Williamson also told the committee he is “very concerned” that some schools “close far too early”.

“I don’t want to see that continue,” he said.

“On average, secondary schools are open for as long on average as primary schools,” Mr Williamson continued.

“But in the post-16 environment, actually the average amount of time spent actually declines.

“We’re the only country in Europe where you see that difference and I think that actually sort of presents some concerns and some worries.”

The education secretary was also asked about the fees schools have to pay to exam boards.

According to a survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the majority of heads in England want a rebate of at least 75% on fees following exams being scrapped.

Conservative MP said schools have raised concerns with him about having to pay the normal fees, despite no examiners or other staff being hired as part of the process.

Mr Williamson said exam boards were responsible for fees, but added he “would be expecting exam boards to be delivering a rebate to schools at the end of this process as they did last year”.

The education secretary also expressed his regret at the departure of Sir Kevan Collins as the government’s education recovery commissioner.

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Sir Kevan resigned his role after the government offered £1.4bn as part of its catch-up fund, a sum he dismissed as falling “far short” of what was required.

“I found working with Sir Kevan a fantastic experience,” Mr Williamson said.

“We’ve actually been able to drive so much forward together, whether that has been on the tutoring or whether that is on the sort of teacher quality elements.

“Of course, it’s with sadness that Sir Kevan isn’t sort of continuing to sort of be able to work as closely as we had been doing.”

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