Folkestone and Hythe Labour Group statement on 2020 Exam Results

Folkestone and Hythe CLP and our elected Town and District Labour Councillors welcome the latest government U-turn on A-level and GCSE results, meaning young people across the district will receive the predicted grades their teachers had originally awarded them through assessment.

We express our solidarity, empathy and support with all young people across the district who have been through unnecessary stress and worry due to the incompetence of the Conservative government and Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson.

For all of us, this year has been exceptionally challenging, and particularly so for students and young people in these final school years that are so critical in determining their future.

By trying to impose an unfair and flawed computer algorithm that would have downgraded so many, students from ordinary working backgrounds across the state sector would have been systematically disadvantaged. It is right that the government now addresses their faults and apologises to young people, their families and to teachers, who have always been the experts in education and assessment, but whose judgment was ignored and whose professionalism was questioned.

However, the fact still remains that the ranking and ordering process, rightly condemned this year as grossly unfair, is actually the norm in our broken system, where results are manipulated to fit pre-determined statistical patterns. This year’s algorithm merely held a mirror up to the existing unfairness in the system.

The inherent unfairness in our education and assessment system routinely allows educational outcomes to be dictated by background. A light has now been shone on these inequalities, and we must work towards a system that does not allow your postcode or background to dictate your life chances.

Councillor Connor McConville, Leader of the  Labour Group on Folkestone and Hythe District Council, said: “While I am glad the government has made the decision to trust in the nation’s teachers, for some students, it is too late. After knowing what had occurred in Scotland, this government carried on with its plans to disregard the integrity of our teaching profession and turn the nation’s grading system into a postcode lottery. This is yet another monumental Tory party failure and it holds a mirror to what is already an unequal system. The students of this District and across the nation should be awarded grades based on their individual achievements”.

In light of this situation, we urgently ask:

  • Why has this U-turn taken so long to come, when the inherent inequality in the arrangements was always so obvious to see?
  • How was the original algorithm designed and why were questions about the fairness of the system not asked by ministers and professionals at Ofqual and the DfE? (Office of Qualifications and Exam Regulation and the Department for Education).
  • Will the government now recognise that teachers are the experts in children and young people’s education, and commit to enshrining teacher assessment as the cornerstone of our assessment system?
  • As part of a new assessment system, what measures will the government take to ensure real equality for students, regardless of background?
  • The government must urgently confirm if students are now entitled to university places they should have been given, but that they lost following downgraded results assigned by the algorithm. Universities have offered those missed places to other students – will those students keep their places? What will happen if universities try to honour both of these offers and exceed the government-enforced cap on student numbers?
  • Given his role in this fiasco, will the Education Secretary now consider his position and resign?