UK

Pupils could take ‘mini-exams’ to be marked by teachers instead of formal A-Levels and GCSEs

School students taking their GCSE and A-levels could be asked to take ‘mini-exams’ to help determine their grades, according to reports.

Exam boards could write the slimmed down papers, which students will take at the request of their teachers.

The papers would be marked by teachers and would be used to help them to inform a student’s grade, according to the Times

Summer GCSE and A-level exams have already been cancelled due to the impact of Covid, with teachers set to grade their students for a second year running.

Natalie Perera, chief executive of research charity, the Education Policy Institute, told the Times that a ‘mini exam’ system could help tackle the risk of grade inflation.

She said: ‘Some grade inflation this year is inevitable, but the government’s plans this week must avoid any extreme inflation, as this may undermine the credibility of grading.

‘The government also has to ensure that there is fairness between different students, schools and colleges.’   

Plans for this year’s summer assessment period are to due to be published this week.

Exam boards could write the slimmed down papers, which students will take at the request of their teachers. Pictured: Library image of students sitting their exams

Natalie Perera, chief executive of research charity, the Education Policy Institute, told The Times that a mini exam system could help tackle the risk of grade inflation

Natalie Perera, chief executive of research charity, the Education Policy Institute, told The Times that a mini exam system could help tackle the risk of grade inflation

All schools WILL reopen on March 8, with outdoor gatherings widened to SIX three weeks later 

The first steps to freedom from lockdown will prioritise reopening schools and reuniting families, Boris Johnson said last night.

In two weeks, on March 8, you will be able to meet one friend or family member in the park for a coffee or a picnic.

On the same date, all pupils will return to the classroom as part of the first of four steps towards getting the country back on its feet.

Unveiling his long-awaited roadmap today, the Prime Minister will announce that on March 29, outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed – enabling families and friend groups to meet properly for the first time in months.

That date will also see the reopening of tennis courts and golf courses and the return of grassroots football.

But in a blow to many families, they will not be allowed to take holidays over the Easter weekend. And shops, hairdressers and pubs are all likely to remain closed until mid-April at the earliest.

Business chiefs last night urged Mr Johnson to ‘be bold’.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said now was the time ‘to commit to reopening our pubs so that thousands of communities and businesses up and down the country can begin to emerge from this crisis’

British Beauty Council chief executive Millie Kendall added: ‘We appeal to the Prime Minister to give us hope we will soon be back to business as usual.’

Mr Johnson will say today that further restrictions will be lifted in subsequent weeks, as long as they meet a set of four new tests designed to keep the pressure off the NHS.

There are that: the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully; evidence shows the jabs are effective at reducing hospital admissions and deaths; infection rates do not risk a surge in hospital cases; and no risky new variants emerge.

He said last night the four tests were currently being met, allowing the first step to go ahead from March 8.

The Prime Minister said he would bring the country out of lockdown ‘cautiously’.

‘Our priority has always been getting children back into school… and we will also be prioritising ways for people to reunite with loved ones safely,’ he said.

Last year, GCSE and A-level exams were scrapped across England in the midst of the Covid pandemic. Students instead were given grades after being assessed by their teachers.

A similar system will be used this year, the Government announced last month, when Education Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed that 2021 A-level and GCSE results will be decided by teacher-assessed grades for a second year running.

It comes as it was revealed today that all pupils will return to the classroom as part of the first of four steps towards getting the country back on its feet. 

The plans will see all students in England return to the classroom for the first time since lockdown was imposed at the start of January.

Schools have remained open for the children of key workers, but many students have been learning remotely.

Some primary school students are returning to class in Scotland this morning – mainly at primary schools.

In Wales, children age 3-7 will begin a phased return to face-to-face teaching today, along with some college students on practical courses.

Plans to bring students back to classrooms in England received a boost yesterday as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer backed the plan – risking a furious row with unions.

Teaching unions are fighting for a phased return to class on safety grounds and have called for teachers and school staff to jump the vaccine queue. 

However Sir Keir yesterday said he wanted all pupils in England back in school on March 8.

He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that more coronavirus testing and ‘Nightingale classrooms’ could address some of the issues.

Sir Keir said: ‘Ideally, I would like to see all schools back open on March 8 and all children back into schools on March 8.

‘I have been worried through the pandemic – a number of people have – about the impact that being out of school has on, particularly, vulnerable children and the attainment gap is getting bigger.’

He said the Government would have to follow the data and the scientific advice on the issue, ‘but that’s what we should be working towards’.

‘If that means more testing, if that means Nightingale classrooms, if it means other measures, let’s do that because I want to get our kids back into school.’

However, his call faced some muted pushback from the Labour left.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor under former leader Jeremy Corbyn, told Sophy Ridge that there was little difference between the new leader and the unions.

But he added: ‘I can’t think of anyone better to listen to than those on the frontline and that is the teachers’ unions.

‘It’s interesting, I don’t think it has happened very often but all the teachers’ unions including those which represent the head teachers and school leaders as well as the frontline teaching staff themselves, are all saying the same thing. 

Sir Keir said he wanted all pupils in England back in school on March 8. He told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday that more coronavirus testing and 'Nightingale classrooms' could address some of the issues

Sir Keir said he wanted all pupils in England back in school on March 8. He told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that more coronavirus testing and ‘Nightingale classrooms’ could address some of the issues

Sage member calls for children to get the coronavirus jab ‘as fast as we can’ to avoid ‘significant risk of a resurgence’ when country reopens 

A senior government advisor has said children should be vaccinated quickly to prevent ‘a significant risk of resurgence’ when the country emerges out of lockdown.

Professor John Edmunds, an adviser to the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said that until ‘everyone’, including children, was jabbed, a ‘significant risk of a resurgence’ remained.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘I think there’s an argument for turning to children (in the vaccine rollout) as fast as we can.

‘I mean, I have two children myself, they are in secondary schools and I think that there has been major disruption at schools and there will continue to be major disruption in schools until we have vaccinated our children.’

He said opening schools now would likely see the R number come close to 1, but that mixing outside is unlikely to have much effect.

Asked if he would be more comfortable opening primary schools and then secondary schools later, he said: ‘Obviously I’m just sticking to the epidemiology rather than other needs.

‘Of course there’s great needs to get our kids back in schools as fast as we can. But sticking to the epidemiology, yeah, of course, it’s always safer to take smaller steps and evaluate.’

The Health Secretary said yesterday that studies were being carried out to determine if and how children should be vaccinated.

‘So, I think listen to the unions and I don’t think that’s different from what Keir is saying. Keir is saying is when it’s safe and if we had to have a staggered reopening of the schools, let’s listen to those on the frontline.’  

Last week, Chris McGovern, a former headteacher and education policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, accused union bosses are bringing the teaching profession ‘into disrepute’ by opposing the reopening of all schools next month.

Nine organisations representing most teachers and headteachers in England last week united to brand plans to reopen primary and secondary schools from March 8 ‘reckless’.

Instead of the so-called ‘big bang’ opening being pushed by the Prime Minister, they want a slower, phased return of pupils to the classroom.

After a string of Government U-turns during the pandemic, union leaders are said to be increasingly confident that they can force Mr Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to back down.

But last week, Mr McGovern accused the unions of attempting to ‘bully’ the Government and warned that their stance risked causing huge damage to children’s education.

He said: ‘The recklessness is coming from the unions. They are playing political games with children’s futures and with the country.

‘The unions are seeking reasons for keeping schools closed. What they should be looking for are ways of saving this generation of children. It’s an appalling indictment of the union bosses and the heads. They are bringing the profession into disrepute.’  

His comments came as yesterday a senior government advisor said children should be vaccinated quickly to prevent ‘a significant risk of resurgence’ when the country emerges out of lockdown.

Professor John Edmunds, an adviser to the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said that until ‘everyone’, including children, was jabbed, a ‘significant risk of a resurgence’ remained.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘I think there’s an argument for turning to children (in the vaccine rollout) as fast as we can

‘I mean, I have two children myself, they are in secondary schools and I think that there has been major disruption at schools and there will continue to be major disruption in schools until we have vaccinated our children.’

Chris McGovern, a former headteacher and education policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, accused the unions of attempting to ‘bully’ the Government and warned that their stance risked causing huge damage to children’s education

Chris McGovern, a former headteacher and education policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, accused the unions of attempting to ‘bully’ the Government and warned that their stance risked causing huge damage to children’s education

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said that on current trends there was likely to be one infected person for every 300 by March 8 – 4.5 times higher than when schools returned last September

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said that on current trends there was likely to be one infected person for every 300 by March 8 – 4.5 times higher than when schools returned last September

He said opening schools now would likely see the R number come close to 1, but that mixing outside is unlikely to have much effect.

Asked if he would be more comfortable opening primary schools and then secondary schools later, he said: ‘Obviously I’m just sticking to the epidemiology rather than other needs.

‘Of course there’s great needs to get our kids back in schools as fast as we can. But sticking to the epidemiology, yeah, of course, it’s always safer to take smaller steps and evaluate.’

The Health Secretary said yesterday that studies were being carried out to determine if and how children should be vaccinated.

Matt Hancock told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday: ‘There’s clinical trials under way as to whether children should be vaccinated.

‘There are two points here. One is that it absolutely must be safe, specifically for children, so that is being currently investigated,’ he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

‘The second is – because children very, very rarely get symptoms or serious illness from the disease – the value, the importance, of vaccinating children is to try to stop the spread of the disease.’

AstraZeneca said it was testing its vaccine on 300 children aged between six and 17. Pfizer is carrying out tests on its vaccine for children aged 12 to 15. 


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