Debbie Hayton Debbie Hayton

Why aren’t exams going ahead?

With students heading back to school, there is little sense in relying on teacher assessment

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

When Boris Johnson talked about trusting teachers, I suspected that the government must be desperate. Trust is not a word I have head much in my 25-year teaching career. I am no longer trusted to go into a GCSE exam hall to look at the paper that my class is sitting in case I somehow manage to undermine the integrity of the exam.

But that was 2019. This morning Gavin Williamson confirmed that this year, it will come down to me and my colleagues in school. There will be no exam papers, no external markers, and certainly no algorithms. Before the pandemic we weren’t even trusted to mark coursework for fear that we gave too much help, now we have been left in charge of the whole process. The system seems designed to shift the problem from ministerial red boxes and onto the desks of overstretched teachers.

In the week of 9 August, hundreds of thousands of GCSE and A-Level students will receive grades that they know have been magicked into existence by their own schools. After last year’s fiasco where the infamous algorithms were dumped at the last minute, it will come down to us — teachers and headteachers. If the government learnt one thing from 2020, it was not to take the blame a second time.

The system seems designed to shift the problem from ministerial red boxes and onto the desks of overstretched teachers

The tragedy is that this need never have happened. This summer’s exams could have gone ahead. Within a couple of weeks, Year 11 and Year 13 will be back in schools and teachers like me could have got on with the job of preparing them to sit exams. Every child would have had their opportunity to show what they could do.

But that will not happen.

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