The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Government’s approach to exam grading in the wake of outcry and heartache at this year’s botched A-Level grades outcome and have launched an emergency campaign to make grades fair for all pupils.
Despite warnings, analysis has shown that pupils from the most disadvantaged backgrounds were disproportionately downgraded. Across England, 36% of entries had grades lower than their teachers predicted and 3% were down two grades. The pain and confusion brought down on students, teachers and parents was compounded late at night on Saturday by OFQUAL’s hasty withdrawal of criteria for appeals that had only just been announced.
The Liberal Democrats have said they will do all they can to support pupils in the fight to ensure young people get fair grades and have urged local MP Maria Caulfield to lobby the Government to ensure young people are given: a) free appeals - to make it easy for every child to appeal grades they think are wrong; b) the chance to give evidence of their progress - so they can be judged on their work, not their school; and c) clear guidance on re-sits - so everyone knows what choices they have to fix this mess.
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson Oli Henman for the Lewes constituency said:
"As a parent myself, I know how important it is for young people to be given a fair start in life. So many young people have worked extremely hard in a very challenging environment and yet they have not got the results they deserve, through no fault of their own. This will understandably have brought anxiety, disappointment and worry about what happens next.
“When put on top of the stress caused by lock-down and the wider insecurities caused by the pandemic, the overall effect is to shatter young people’s hope for their future before they have even begun. This appears particularly unfair as students from disadvantaged backgrounds and in state schools have been hardest hit by the downgrading of their results. I have heard of significant concerns from parents and pupils at local schools such as Seaford Head and there is even greater unease about the upcoming release of GCSE grades.
"Pupils must have the chance to appeal their grades directly and to present evidence that reflects their performance and progress at no cost. Ministers must also provide clear guidance on how re-sits will work and encourage universities to be flexible where necessary. We also need renewal of local accountability by Councils for school standards and results, to prevent the dreadful outcomes we now see in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:
"The shambolic handling of these results has left many young people in crisis. Despite the warning signs, the Education Secretary ignored teachers’ advice and has hit pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds hardest.
"Gavin Williamson is an Education Secretary out of his depth and out of excuses. He must take responsibility for his mistakes and step down with immediate effect. Our young people cannot afford to have their futures robbed by this Conservative Government’s incompetence.”
Notes to editors:
The Liberal Democrats are urging people to support their campaign here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/grades
Please see the text of the letter below.
I hope you are well in these challenging times. I am writing to you regarding the ongoing uncertainty on school exam grades.
As you know, so many young people locally have shown real resilience during this very difficult time and should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved. However, too many young people are rightly worried and heartbroken that their futures are being robbed by your Government’s incompetence.
It is completely unacceptable for any student to be downgraded based on their family income, or any other factor. They deserve better.
The Liberal Democrats will do all we can to support pupils in the fight to ensure young people get the fair grades they deserve.
I am therefore calling on you to be on their side by lobbying the Government with our calls to ensure every pupils is given:
Free appeals - to make it easy for every child to appeal grades they think are wrong.
The chance to give evidence of their progress - so they can be judged on their work, not their school.
Clear guidance on re-sits - so everyone knows what choices they have to fix this mess.
Furthermore, I call on you to push for a fairer approach to GCSE grading in the coming week, that does not rely on the faulty 'algorithm' approach.
I look forward to your response.
Oli Henman, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Lewes