School exams SHOULD be held in 'some form' in England says Mr Halfon

School exams SHOULD be held in ‘some form’ in England next year, chair of Education Select Committee says amid calls for country to follow Wales and scrap all A-Level and GCSE’s in 2021

  • Robert Halfon said scrapping exams not an option as it would demotivate pupils
  • Echoes schools inspector Amanda Spielman’s belief no exams would be wrong
  • Options include pupils sit only core subject exams or reduce number of papers set
  • Government and schools must work together to assess the disruption caused 

School exams should go ahead ‘in some form or another’ in England next year to ensure students aren’t demotivated, according to the chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee.

Tory MP Robert Halfon said there were a number of options available to make changes to school exams in England next year. 

Some suggestions include allowing students to just have exams in the core subjects, like maths, English, and the sciences or reduce the overall number of papers pupils are set.

Appearing on Times Radio, Mr Halfon was asked if Wales was right to scrap end-of-year exams in 2021.

‘Ideally exams should take place in some form or another,’ he said when commenting on England.

Mr Halfon’s comments come just a day after ministers faced calls to scrap A-Level and GCSE exams in England next summer after Wales axed its 2021 tests to help pupils affected by coronavirus lockdowns.

Education Select Committee chair Robert Halfon (pictured) said exams should go ahead ‘in some form or another’ in England next year to ensure students aren’t demotivated

Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams said that next summer’s papers would be replaced by coursework and assessments to ensure ‘fairness’ in the system amid ongoing disruption to schools. 

Scotland has also said its National 5 exams – equivalent to GCSEs – will be replaced by assessments next year.  

So far the only changes to the exams system in England are they’ve been delayed by three weeks to allow students to catch up, despite union demands for them to be completely abandoned.

Sarah Mulholland, head of policy at the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: ‘What the Welsh education minister has realised – unlike Gavin Williamson – is that we’re at risk of repeating the same mistake we saw on results day this summer unless we change course now,’ she said.

Welsh education minister Kirsty Williams said that next summer’s papers would be replaced by coursework and assessments amid ongoing disruption to schools caused by the coronavirus.

‘It is either naive or wilfully ignorant of the Government to pretend that there is any hope of achieving a fair, level playing-field for pupils when there are huge disparities both in attendance and a child’s ability to work from home.’

But so far No10 has refused to follow Wales’s lead and Mr Halfon’s comments on Times Radio reflected that stance.

He added: ‘I agree with what the chief inspector of schools, Amanda Spielman, told my education committee yesterday in Parliament that if you didn’t have exams, it could disrupt the structure and motivation of pupils, that many might not return over the academic year.’

The announcement came as Ofsted chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman warned against cancelling exams, because of the impact on children and their families

Mr Halfon, a Conservative MP, said the Government needed to assess with schools how much ‘lost learning’ there has been for pupils, how much ‘catch-up’ is needed and how to ensure there is a ‘level playing field’ for disadvantaged students. 

During the interview, he told Times Radio: ‘Either that you reduce the number of papers that students are set, you change the content of the actual exams themselves, or you just have exams in the core subjects, like maths, English, sciences, and then possibly have centre-assessed grades with an independent assessor checking it.

‘There are a number of options, but ideally, some kind of exam should take place.

‘It’s the fairest method, it gives pupils structure and the problem with centre-assessed grades is that you bake grade inflation into the system, and you don’t want to recycle this year’s cock-up into next year’s cock-up.’

But Mr Halfon said ongoing testing throughout the academic year would put ‘enormous pressure’ on teachers and ‘a lot of strain’ on pupils.

He said exams had been delayed by three weeks by the Government but ‘may be delayed further’.

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