UK government told to fix ‘huge mess’ over Covid-19 exams

The British government has been urged to fix the “huge mess” created by its handling of school grades given to students during the Covid-19 pandemic.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has found itself under acute pressure over how grades are being awarded to school students in England, who were unable to take exams earlier this summer because of coronavirus.

The issue has dominated headlines in the country even as Downing Street faces criticism over its handling of the coronavirus crisis more generally.

Britain has recorded the highest death toll in Europe during the outbreak and the most severe economic contraction of any major economy so far.

Because students could not sit their exams, the regulator is issuing grades based on an algorithm that saw almost 40 per cent of A-level students receive lower grades than those predicted by their teachers.

The government has said the process was necessary to prevent “grade inflation” that would render the results worthless.

However, the algorithm has been seen to discriminate against students from historically under-performing schools after the school’s past performance in the exams was taken into account.

Robert Halfon, an MP for Mr Johnson’s centre-right conservative party and the chairman of the education committee of lawmakers, said the situation is a “huge mess” and “unacceptable.”

“Students and teachers are incredibly anxious — particularly the students who are worried about their future,” he told the BBC. “This has got to be sorted out.”

Kate Green, the education spokeswoman for the main opposition Labour Party, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs to “get a grip” and provide clarity to students.

“A credible appeals system should have been the government’s first priority, but three days later there is absolutely no clarity on how young people can challenge their unfair grades,” she said.

An announcement late on Saturday sparked confusion when English exam regulator Ofqual launched a review on its own just-published guidance on how students can appeal grades awarded under a complicated system.

In a brief statement hours after issuing the guidance, Ofqual said the policy was “being reviewed” by its board and that further information would be released “in due course.”

No reason has been given for the sudden change.

The Sunday Times newspaper reported parents and their school-aged children are increasingly turning to the courts in the row over grades.

Grades for 16-year-olds who would have sat their GCSE exams this summer are due to be released on Thursday. Experts have warned of wave of fresh new complaints after the same system was used for them.

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