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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Students deserve gold medals… not just A grades after Covid disrupted their lives

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RESULTS  week is here – and for thousands of young people and their families the wait is almost over.

Getting your A-level, GCSE or vocational results is always a nerve-racking time.

This year has been a huge challenge for students across the country


This year has been a huge challenge for students across the country

But this year students overcame even greater challenges than normal.

While the pandemic has caused disruption to everyone’s lives, young people have really had to dig deep.

Frankly, if there had been an Olympic medal for grit, our students would all have won gold.

We faced stark choices this year when a new variant of Covid meant  schools had to close again for public safety as we locked down.

Some people argued loudly that we should put off the entire process   — making students repeat the year, then take exams and receive their ­qualifications later.

But putting all those futures on hold was not an option.

Together with the exams regulator Ofqual, we undertook the biggest consultation in  our history, asking  students, ­parents, teachers and school and university leaders what they thought should be done.

We listened — and that is why grades for GCSEs, AS and  A levels and some vocational and technical qualifications this year have been assessed by teachers.

Education Secretary Gavin Wiliamson says students deserve medals


Education Secretary Gavin Wiliamson says students deserve medalsCredit: PA


Teachers know what their students can do and, in the absence of formal exams, there is no person or system better placed to fairly judge young people’s abilities.

It also meant children were assessed only on what they had learned.

Exams are the fairest ­possible form of assessment but it simply would not have been right to ask students to sit standardised papers when we know everyone has had different learning experiences over recent months.

The choice we made is the fairest way of making sure we don’t stop a generation of ­students progressing to the next stage of their lives.

None of this would have been possible without the enormous skill and dedication of all our secondary school teachers and college lecturers.

We have already asked a great deal of them throughout the pandemic and once again they have risen to the challenge. The entire country owes them a huge debt of thanks.

I know some people have said this system of assessment is going to favour some students more than ­others, that “pushy parents” would put undue pressure on teachers.

I can assure you that we have put a system in place to make sure grades are double checked and to root out any queries or inconsistencies.

We are also working hard behind the scenes with the university sector to make sure that as many young people as ­possible can take up a place at university, and we are hoping that more students than ever do so.

To make sure there are enough places this year on popular courses, especially those that are key to the country’s recovery from the pandemic, we are allocating an extra £10million in grant funding for nursing, STEM and other key subjects.

We also know there is huge demand for places on medicine and dentistry courses.

We want to match our young people’s enthusiasm, so we have adjusted the cap on places to enable more students than ever to get a chance to study on these courses.

Just like any year, there will be pupils who will be ­disappointed. Anyone who does not get the grades they were hoping for will still have lots of options open to them.


There is plenty of information online from the National Careers Service, and the admissions service UCAS will help students with the choices on offer.

If pupils want the opportunity to improve their grades they have the option to sit an exam in the autumn, and last year more than 40,000 students did so.

There is also an appeals process if a student believes a mistake has led to them being given the wrong grade, and the Exam Results Helpline will be there to help navigate through the best options.

This year has, like the one before it, made bigger demands of young people than ever before, and it fills me with huge pride that students have responded in the way they have.

I want to congratulate all of them and wish them the very best for the next stage of their lives.

‘Our teachers know us, it’s right they decide’

KAY SMITH, 18, is a sixth form student at Greensward Academy in Hockley, Essex. He says:

“WHEN I started online schooling I really did struggle with learning from my bedroom. That’s normally somewhere I’d relax, but instead I was working there, and I was procrastinating more than I would at school.

“For the first few weeks it was definitely harder but as time went on I adapted and came up with little tricks, such as giving my phone to my mum so I could concentrate on work.

“We’ve all had to adapt and one big change has been not having exams at the end of our time at school.

“But if exams are not possible, teacher-assessed grades are the next fairest way of working out what grades we deserve – and it helps that our teachers have been transparent about the process to show us it is really evidence based.

“It’s right that these decisions rest with the teachers who know us best. After all, they’re the ones who have known us throughout our time at school, they know what we would be expected to get.”

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