Schools welcome decision to cancel GCSEs but call for more clarity over what work students need to do next

Education leaders across Leeds have called for more clarity after it was confirmed that GCSE and A Level exams will not go-ahead this summer.
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In the Commons today, education secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs that the Government will put its "trust in teachers, rather than algorithms".

He acknowledged that exams are the "fairest way" of assessing what a student knows, but said the impact of the pandemic meant it was not possible to hold exams in the summer. It comes after the Government announced schools and colleges in England would be closed until mid-February amid the new national lockdown and also follows the GCSE and A-level grading fiasco last summer.

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News that GCSE and A Level results have been cancelled is welcomed in Leeds but more clarity is needed.News that GCSE and A Level results have been cancelled is welcomed in Leeds but more clarity is needed.
News that GCSE and A Level results have been cancelled is welcomed in Leeds but more clarity is needed.
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Laura Moore is the principal at Bruntcliffe Academy at Morley. She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "It is positive that they have come out with a statement at this point. The key thing for us is we need them to act quickly in terms of the clarity. A number of students have asked us what they are supposed to do and this has put us on the back foot. We are hearing at the same time as everybody else and we can't offer any answers.

"We need clarity so they understand if they are to continue courses in the same way. A lot of time is spent preparing for exams so if that is not the case, what do they need to focus on?"

While today's announcements were more geared towards secondary schools, the cancellation of GCSEs has raised questions over whether SATs will still take place this year.

Sam Done is the principal at Hillcrest Academy, near Harehills and Chapeltown. He said: "From a primary perspective we are not saying that we want a removal of SATs, what we would like is information on the position. They have come out with a response to secondary exams and primary leaders would very much appreciate a decision on whether there will be changes to primary exams in order to give us time to adjust if there are exams or different systems in place.

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"We would rather know than not, and sooner rather than later."

Current year 11 students have been urged not to remain positive and stay focused with their education.

Adam Ryder, head at Morley Academy and Boston Spa Academy: “We are pleased to see that the education secretary had made a sensible decision to trust teachers rather than run the lottery of running an unfair examination series this year. Students have been impacted significantly by the pandemic and this feels like the best outcome for them so that they can progress to the next stage. For those who are concerned that students receive grades that do not reflect previous years I would say that if this is the worst outcome of this pandemic, then it is a price worth paying so that our students can progress and be recognised for their hard work.

“It is however, more important than ever that students in examination year groups continue to engage with education so that their teachers can assess them with accuracy and confidence.

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"I am sure that some students will be disappointed that they are not going to be taking their exams this year. I would say to them, ‘your hard work and commitment to your studies will not go unrecognized. Remember that this is only one of the many transition points in your life - look forward with positivity.”

Earlier, the Prime Minister had said that laptops were still being distributed this week.

Building on the 560,000 laptops and tablets provided last year, 50,000 were delivered to schools on Monday and more than 100,000 were being delivered in total during the first week of term.

But local groups campaigning to get technology equipment to disadvantaged children said it still wasn't enough.

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Ben McKenna, of Leeds Tech Angels, said: "It’s unfortunate that the Government has indicated a willingness to up its game only after the crisis has peaked and children are back at home.

“The number of additional devices committed is far short of what is urgently required and, based on the past performance of ministers, there will be continuing doubt about whether these will actually be delivered.

“That is why the Leeds Tech Angels initiative is so important. I urge employers and others with spare laptops and related kit to please pass what they have on to us as soon as they can. They can really make a difference to young people’s lives across the city.”

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