School Exams Axed and Replaced With Teacher Marks in England

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The U.K. government confirmed that GCSE and A-level exams will be canceled this year due to the pandemic, with pupils instead being graded by their teachers.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told members of Parliament Wednesday it is right to “put our trust in teachers rather than algorithms” for generating grades.

Schools in England have been closed since Tuesday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Earlier on Wednesday, Johnson said schools “may” reopen on Feb. 22, after the week-long half-term holiday, but warned this is not certain and the closures could last longer.

Read more: U.K.’s Johnson Vows Schools Will Reopen First After Lockdown

Johnson’s administration has been criticized by teachers, poverty campaigners and parents over its handling of schooling during the pandemic.

Ministers were forced into a major U-turn last summer after a controversial algorithm downgraded thousands of A-level results, causing anger and confusion for teenagers who were counting on the grades to secure university places. Students were eventually graded by their teachers but for some it was too late to get into their chosen university.

Speaking in Parliament, Williamson said the impact of the pandemic meant it was “not possible” for externally marked A-level exams for 18 year-olds and GCSEs for 16 year-olds to go ahead this year. The government has “learned lessons” from last year’s problems and will base grades on the assessments of teachers rather than a computer program, he said.

Williamson insisted schools are “far better placed” to cope with lockdown now than last spring, saying that all state-funded schools are under orders to provide between three and five hours of online teaching each day. He said there will be extra funding for schools to provide meals for the poorest children during the lockdown.

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