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‘Lost education’ could be addressed in grading for 2021 exams, minister suggests

By Eleanor Busby, PA Education Correspondent
·3-min read

Grading for next year’s GCSE and A-level exams could address the “lost education” students have suffered due to school closures amid the coronavirus pandemic, a minister has suggested.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has told MPs he is concerned about the “unfairness and unevenness” between pupils who have missed out on different amounts of schooling due to lockdowns or self-isolation.

But Mr Gibb ruled out cutting the school holidays to give pupils more time to catch up as he said “teachers have been working phenomenally hard” during the pandemic and they “need a break.”

When asked what would happen with 2021 exams if pupils missed more learning, he said: “There are two issues – one is the issue across the country as a whole, the lost education all students will have suffered as a consequence of schools being closed to most students from March until the summer.

“And we will have more to say about this in the next few weeks, but that will be dealt with through issues such as grading that Ofqual and the exam boards are working through.”

Addressing the Education Select Committee, Mr Gibb acknowledged that some students will have suffered greater lockdowns and “greater propensity to be self-isolating” than students in other schools.

“That does worry me and I’ve discussed this in great detail with the regulator Ofqual to see what more we can do to address this issue,” he said.

There is a “disparity” between the way schools react when there is a confirmed case of coronavirus in a “bubble,” Mr Gibb told MPs.

His comments came ahead of Government figures on Tuesday afternoon which showed nearly half of secondary schools had one or more pupils self-isolating due to potential contact with a case of Covid-19 inside the school.

Jonathan Gullis, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, said he is worried that the Government’s tutoring programme and a delay to the 2021 exam timetable will not be enough for pupils to catch up

He said: “My fear is that it’s still not going to be sufficient time to cover the breadth, and most importantly the depth of the curriculum that is required in order for students to take those exams and achieve as well as they could do.”

Addressing the committee, Mr Gibb acknowledged that the three-week delay in next summer’s exams in England will lead to “constrained marking time”.

He said the Department for Education (DfE) will speak to the exam boards and schools about being able “to release more teachers to be able to mark” to ensure results are released in time.

When asked whether he thought Covid-19 cases will fall or rise during the October half-term holiday, Mr Gibb said: “Students are safe, you could argue safer, in the school environment than they are outside that environment.

“But in terms of those kind of projections I am not really qualified to answer those questions.”