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What is happening with GCSEs and A-levels grades in England? The confusing life of a student during the pandemic 

Exams for 2021 are cancelled, grades will now be teacher assessed

GCSE, A-level and BTEC students are to have teacher-assessed grades, following the cancellation of exams for the second year running, in response to the ongoing pandemic and lack of personalised, interactive teaching. 

Teachers will base grades on work completed throughout pupils’ studies, ranging from coursework, mock exams, essays and any in-class work. 

Gavin Williamson announced that the cancelled A-level and GCSE exams, that are to be replaced by the teacher’s grading system, aims to ‘put our trust in teachers, rather than algorithms’. 

The old algorithm has been heavily criticised by the teachers’ union, which has warned there must not be a repeat of last year’s exam grading system chaos. 

A sixth form teacher who asked to remain anonymous said: “This time round things still feel very uncertain still, but at least we have good warning to collate evidence for learners’ grades. 

“That being said, we’re still not sure exactly how grades are going to be assigned and so the uncertainty continues.” 

The life of a GCSE student in the pandemic

Adelle Hurne, 38, a parent of a GSCE student said: “As a parent and an adult with life experience, it would be my view that it would be unjust to grade GCSE students leaving education in 2021 on any basis whatsoever. 

“It is my view that school leavers should not be graded at all and in these unprecedented times should be afforded the opportunity to commence a college course of their choosing, without grades being a factor.” 

The current situation at hand is appreciably more positive regarding the grading system, education centres have increased experience of teaching within a pandemic and thorough guidance from the government – students are receiving grades that are more fairly based.

This year’s decision comes after students last year underwent uncertainty and a U-turn around their grades – protests were held outside of the Department of Education and petitions were devised.

 Many students lost places in their aspired universities and were consequently forced into clearing. 

Many students lost places at their aspired universities and were consequently forced into clearing.

Iasmina Ionescu, 19, now a student at Leeds Trinity University said: “The first round of grades was a failure, all of my peers were shocked at the grades they received and many of us were left feeling confused and concerned about our futures, as they were a lot lower than what our teachers had predicted. 

“Once we began petitions and protests over our outrage surrounding the issue, the government changed the final grades to the predicted ones given by our teachers, many of which were still inadequate, but it did make a huge positive difference for the majority. 

“One of my grades went from a E to a C.” 

A GCSE student revising

Anxiety soared amongst students on the lead up to results in 2020 as the world adjusted to the pandemic and what that meant for results, a complete contrast to those students in their position this year. 

A sixth form teacher said: “When the U-turn on algorithms came into play, we were launched into even more chaos and uncertainty and it truly felt like the government had no concept of what they were doing. 

“This time round feels far more optimistic, and a lot of students can see the meritocracy in what they are doing.” 

As part of the wider covid skills recovery response, the Chancellor has announced funding for those aged 18 and 19 leaving schools this year to encourage and support delivery of selected level 2 and 3 qualifications to help enable a more productive economy and keep young people engaged with education.

The government’s full guidance for this year’s exams can be found here.

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