Esther McVey has called for GCSEs and A-levels due to be sat this summer be cancelled as pupils face continued disruption to their education from the pandemic.
The Tatton MP said students in year 11 and 13 had suffered “far more disruption” than last year’s pupils who had exams cancelled and this year’s cohort should also be awarded grades in the same way.
Speaking in Parliament she called on Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to do the “fair and right” thing and cancel the exams to “provide certainty” for tens of thousands of young people.
Ms McVey said: “Those due to sit their A levels and GCSEs in 2021 have suffered far more disruption and continue to do so than those who were due to sit them earlier this year. Will the Secretary of State accept the only sensible and fair course of action is to cancel these exams too, to ensure these students prospects are not damaged by taking exams which would have been rendered virtually meaningless.”
She made the call as Mr Williamson set out a delayed and phased return to schools for pupils across England while rapid Covid testing can be put in place.
Mr Williamson said: “This is why we took the action that we did in terms of making sure the generosity mirrors that of 2020. This is why we have announced the advance notice of exam subjects so that teachers and students in the final months in the run up to the exams are able to focus on the topics going to be in the exams. We do believe that unless it is exceptional circumstances that exams are the fairest form of assessment.”
Ms McVey said there could be no more exceptional circumstances than a global pandemic with continuing lockdowns and disrupted schooling and said she would keep pushing for exams to be scrapped and as much notice as possible be given to pupils & teachers so they can be prepared.
She added: “GCSEs and A-levels are two year courses and pupils have already suffered nine months of disruption with many more to come. Speaking to parents it is very clear the pressure the uncertainty is having on young people. We owe it to them to act and quickly. Teachers have told me they do not know which topics are going to be on the exam yet which is also ridiculous as what student are learning in the coming weeks may not be assessed. Cancelling this year’s exams after three months disruption was the right thing to do but we must offer these pupils the same certainties. By the time they sit their exams they would have had more than a year of disruption."
Government say research shows children from disadvantaged and black and ethnic minority backgrounds are most disadvantaged with non-exam assessments.