Ofqual chair to be grilled by MPs amid continued exams confusion

Ofqual’s chairman is to be grilled by senior MPs amid uncertainty over whether exams will take place in England next summer and continued anger over the GCSE and A-levels fiasco.

Roger Taylor will appear before the Commons education committee on Wednesday in the wake of the chaotic handling of grading exams cancelled during the coronavirus crisis.

Labour has urged Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to ensure that “a summer of incompetence” over exams does not descend into an autumn of “disaster and dismay”.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said on Tuesday that there would be a decision “very soon” on whether the next exams would start late to allow for more teaching time during the disruption.

Mr Taylor’s evidence will come after a fresh claim that Mr Williamson was offered evidence of flaws in the grading process before A-level results were published in England.

Cambridge Assessment, which operates OCR – one of the main exam boards, submitted evidence to the education committee saying it approached ministers and the Department for Education in July, the Guardian reported.

One warning was said to have come two weeks before A-level results were published on August 13, before another was made days before GCSE results were revealed.

Sir Jon Coles, a former Department for Education director-general, also warned Mr Williamson the exams algorithm would disadvantage poorer pupils around a month before it was axed.

The Ofqual algorithm to calculate grades, devised after ministers insisted on avoiding grade inflation, was eventually scrapped after widespread anger at the process.

The Tory chair of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, has called for students to be assessed in some way in the autumn in case of disruption to exams next year.

Mr Williamson on Tuesday apologised once again to students who suffered “a great deal of stress and uncertainty” due to “inconsistent and unfair” A-level outcomes from Ofqual’s algorithm.

The Education Secretary told MPs the Government is determined that exams will go ahead in 2021, adding they were working with the sector to ensure “this is done as smoothly as possible”.

Ofqual – which launched a consultation in July which proposed delaying the start of GCSE exams to June 7 – has not yet made a decision on the timetable for the 2021 exam series.

Meanwhile, a YouGov survey suggested one in six (17%) parents in England and Wales is seriously considering not sending their children to school this month over Covid-19 fears.

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