Local MP speaks out in parliamentary debate on government’s exams fiasco

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10 Sep 2020
Margaret Greenwood, the MP for Wirral West, gave the summing-up speech in an important debate in Parliament which scrutinised the government’s chaotic handling of the process of awarding qualifications in GCSEs, A-levels and NVQs this year.  

Changes to the way in which grades were eventually awarded followed months of uncertainty for students after the government announced back in March that exams would not take place this summer. Instead, schools and colleges were required to grade their students and then the exam regulator Ofqual used a government-backed algorithm to standardise these grades.  

The use of the algorithm led, on A-level results day, to 39.1% of grades being adjusted downwards from the grades given by schools and colleges, causing enormous anxiety for hundreds of thousands of students. 

It has since been revealed that government ministers, including education secretary Gavin Williamson and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, were repeatedly made aware of issues with their chosen system.  

On 17 August, Labour called for the government to use the original grades given by schools to their students to put an end to the exams fiasco. Later that day, the government did just that in what was an embarrassing U-turn.  

In the debate, Labour called on the government to provide all correspondence, including meeting notes, minutes, submissions and electronic communications, involving Ministers and Special Advisers pertaining to the process of awarding qualifications in GCSE, A-Level and NVQs in 2020 and 2021 by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education to the Education Select Committee.  

Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP, who is also the Shadow Schools Minister, said: 

“This was a really important debate and at its heart was the question of public confidence in the government’s handling of GCSEs, A-levels and NVQs this year.  

“Students in Wirral and around the country, their families and teachers faced months of uncertainty and anxiety as a result of the government’s incompetence and failure to effectively manage the exams process this summer. 

“It was completely unfair on the students affected. BTEC students have also been hit, with some only receiving their results in the last week. This is massively disappointing for students and has caused a great deal of disruption to their plans for the future. 

“In some cases people have had to postpone going to university by a year because of delays caused by this fiasco. 

“Labour called for full transparency from the government in the debate which essentially asked the government to reveal what the Secretary of State for Education knew and what the Prime Minister knew about the problems with their chosen way of administering grades this year, when they knew it, and what they did about it when they were warned of the problems with the system.    

“The government now needs to set out for schools and students how they plan to deliver an assessment process in 2021 that is rigorous, fairly managed and able to deliver in the event of further disruption in the coming year.   

“Labour has called for exams to be put back to June to allow students and teachers to make up vital lost time and to address the potential for further disruption due to coronavirus. 

“Students and teachers need clarity from government now so that they know what they are working towards and aiming for. We cannot have a repeat of the stress and anxiety that students have had to suffer this year.”